The Oakland Raiders, through owner Al Davis and Raiders chief executive Amy Trask, are negotiating to sell off another percentage of the team, this time to a billionaire who has been trying to buy a franchise with designs on moving it to Los Angeles, league sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.
Trask has been spearheading negotiations with a group headed by C. Dean Metropoulos in a transaction that would sell at least 10 percent stake in the Raiders, sources told Mortensen. Forbes Magazine has estimated the Raiders' value at a little more than $800 million, but league sources say the calculation is closer to $700 million.
Oakland, however, strongly denied that a sell-off is in the works.
"Chris' report is not true," Trask told The Associated Press. "We are not negotiating with this group. We know who they are and that they want to purchase the controlling interest in a team. This team is not available to them. They are unhappy about that and have turned to Chris to assist them in their efforts, which is easy to do since Chris contacted no one with the Raiders to ascertain if there was any truth to his report. There is not. It would have been so easy for him to contact us and ask if we are negotiating with this group. We are not."
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Mortensen stood by the report.
"The Raiders have lost the privilege with me of running stories past them for comment," the e-mail stated. "This stems from their history of denials to most stories I have reported -- as well as others in the media -- when those stories have eventually proven to be true. The latest example is I reported that Al Davis planned to interview Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and, of course, the story was trashed by a team spokesman."
Later Sunday, Mortensen elaborated on his statement.
"Upon further review, I should not have qualified any potential communication with the Raiders as a 'privilege.' I'd say they have repeatedly diminished and discouraged efforts to reach out for an official comment based on the repeated denials of prior stories," Mortensen said. "It also would be an assumption on their part that I have not had any contact with the Raiders while reporting on this story."
The Raiders sold 20 percent of the team in October 2007 to three businessmen to get a cash infusion, which is also the goal of the latest transaction, the sources told Mortensen. However, the 2007 sell-off did not give those investors an option to purchase the team and Davis remained in control as majority owner.
Metropoloulos' lead broker is trying to negotiate a purchase option on the Raiders within three to five years upon closing the deal, sources told Mortensen.
Metropoulos had been identified previously by the Philadelphia Daily News last offseason as an aggressive buyer with a desire to relocate a franchise to Los Angeles. He has publicly denied his reported attempts, but sources confirm their veracity.
The Raiders and Jaguars were teams previously identified among those franchises, and the latest round of talks with Oakland has been renewed after Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver rebuffed Metropoulos' bid because he opposed any plan to relocate the franchise, sources told Mortensen.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.