PORTLAND, Ore. -- The NBA pulled out of negotiations
Thursday between the Portland Trail Blazers and Rose Garden owners
intended to help sell the team and its home arena.
Last month, Blazers owner Paul Allen said the team was
hemorrhaging money and appealed for a public partnership to keep it
afloat. Allen suggested he may have to sell the team if a solution
could not be found.
Representatives for Allen met with city and state officials, but
the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft had expressed frustration
with the owners of the Rose Garden.
The arena was originally financed by Allen without public money.
But the team's sister company, Oregon Arena Corp., declared
bankruptcy in 2004 and Allen chose to give up ownership rather than
continue to pay interest on construction debt.
As a result, team revenue has declined sharply, along with
ticket sales, down by a third from five years ago.
Allen has estimated the team will lose some $100 million over
the next three seasons.
In a statement released Thursday, commissioner David Stern said
the league has attempted for the past six weeks to broker a deal
"to sell the team and the arena to one of several prospective
purchasers that we have identified."
"Unfortunately, the arena owners have not offered any
constructive response to these efforts and recently advised us that
they are satisfied with the status quo. Accordingly, we have
advised both parties that we have withdrawn from the process,"
Stern's statement said.
Richard Josephson, a board member for Portland Arena Management,
the company formed to represent the lenders who now own the Rose
Garden, said the group met with representatives for Allen and the
commissioner whenever asked.
"We thought there were ongoing discussions," Josephson said.
"We've never been presented a specific proposal, either as to
price or as to buyer, to consider. We have been talking and
indicated out willingness to continue to talk, and did not find Mr.
Stern's decision to issue that press release particularly helpful
to the process."
Andy Brimmer, a spokesman for Allen, said Allen remains willing
to work with Portland Arena Management, "but as the NBA indicated,
to date PAM has not been responsive."
"We appreciate the positive working relationship we've
developed with the city and we'll continue working with them to
find a solution," Brimmer said.
Some have criticized Allen's plea -- first made at the NBA trade
deadline -- considering he ranks among the world's richest men.
Allen made his first comments to reporters about the situation
during halftime of the Blazers' loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on
Sunday, insisting that the "financial model is broken" when it
comes to the team. He appealed for cooperation.
"Right now you've got one major party in this whole thing
that's on the sidelines, they're not saying anything. ... They have
to be part of a solution to leave the franchise in a healthy
state," he said.
When asked if he saw himself as owner of the team next season,
Allen replied, "Unclear."