ALAMEDA, Calif. -- A day after casino magnate Sheldon Adelson withdrew his $650 million pledge toward a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium to entice the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas, Goldman Sachs, which was purportedly in line to serve as a financier for the Raiders in place of Adelson, also pulled out.
It puts the Raiders' desired move to Southern Nevada in jeopardy and raises more questions on top of those posed Tuesday.
Q: Why would Goldman Sachs take a pass after reportedly being a sure thing?
A: According to several reports, Goldman Sachs was going to finance the deal only if Adelson was involved. And since Adelson dropped out Monday night because, as his statement said, he was not included in a lease proposal to the Las Vegas Stadium Authority by the Raiders, the bank is also out. Except, why would the Raiders need Goldman Sachs to finance the deal and step in for Adelson if Adelson and his $650 million pledge were still involved? It is all just as murky as it is fluid.
A popular conspiracy theory has Adelson so miffed at the Raiders that he leaned on Goldman Sachs, with whom he has a longstanding business relationship, to get out of the deal, or else.
It should be noted, though, that the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by Adelson, reported Tuesday night that Adelson "did not speak with anyone from Goldman Sachs about pulling support, nor did he urge the firm to back out of the deal."
Q: Are the Las Vegas Raiders sinking to the bottom of Lake Mead wearing cement shoes?
A: For all intents and purposes, yes -- unless someone else steps up with that $650 million. Keep in mind, $750 million in the form of a hotel tax Adelson helped shepherd through in October is still on the table, which has to keep the NFL interested.
The Raiders maintain they still plan to move to Las Vegas -- they already filed for relocation -- but there would be no need to ask for a vote at the NFL owners meetings March 26-29 in Phoenix that would surely go against them as it stands now.
Q: So who might step up with Adelson and Goldman Sachs out?
A: Las Vegas media have floated a couple of predictable names in Ed Roski and Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. But both own casinos and if, as the theory goes, the NFL was still reluctant about letting Adelson have such a huge stake in the stadium and the owners were actually relieved to see Adelson exit, why would feelings be different about Roski and the Fertittas? And why would Roski and/or the Fertittas want to contribute such a huge amount of money if a stake in ownership of the Raiders is not involved (it isn’t) or the Raiders stick to their guns with the lease proposal that has them paying $1 a year in rent and gives them control of stadium operations with little to no say for UNLV, which would share the dome?
Keep this in mind, though: The Fertittas, who sold UFC for $4 billion, were involved early on in the Raiders’ study of a potential stadium site in Las Vegas, on a 113-acre site west of Interstate 15 on Tropicana Avenue. The Raiders, though, have identified a 62-acre plot on Russell Road, west of Interstate 15 and the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the south end of Las Vegas, as their preferred site.
Q: So that’s it?
A: Not quite. Because even if the Raiders did get $650 million and the approval of the NFL owners to move, they would still have to deal with an angry Adelson in Las Vegas. Think he wouldn’t want to make things as hard as possible for the new kids on the block after he was shut out? Be it construction or concessions, some smoothing over would be necessary.
Q: Oh yeah, what about Ronnie Lott’s group?
A: The longer it takes the Raiders to get to Las Vegas, the more time it allows the Lott Group and Fortress Investment Group to put together a more acceptable plan to keep the Raiders in Oakland. Remember, the league does not care for Fortress acting as a third party, which lends credence to the notion that the NFL was not comfortable with Adelson on one level, let alone the casino ties. Come to think of it, that should apply to the likes of Roski and the Fertittas, too.
Lott’s group put out its own statement Tuesday: “We stand ready to work with the team and NFL to keep the Raiders here at home. We have the land available at the existing Coliseum site following the actions of the City of Oakland and Alameda County last December. We have a strong financing partner in Fortress Investment Group. We have an additional $100 million due to the NFL incentive to keep the Raiders in Oakland. And of course, we have the best fans in the world right here in the heart of Raider Nation. Add to all that a diverse and fast growing community, a top-10 television market, and more Fortune 500 companies than any region in the western United States. Bottom line, if the Raiders want to stay in Oakland, we are more than ready to be a partner in making that happen.”
But as former Raiders All-Pro fullback Marcel Reece responded to me on Twitter:
Like I said, this situation remains as fluid as it is muddy.