Unconscionability, thy name is Paul

Just reserving the topic. I got dibs. Come back this afternoon for the actual post…

While you wait, a defintion from Wordnet: “adj 1: lacking a conscience; ‘a conscienceless villain’; ‘brash, unprincipled, and conscienceless’; ‘an unconscionable liar’ [syn: conscienceless] 2: greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation [syn: exorbitant, extortionate, outrageous, steep, usurious]”

And the inspiration for my disgust.

My main thesis will be that I really don’t like Portland’s current government, and I’m not really a fan of our state government either. But if they give the world’s 9th richest man one penny, I’ll freakin’ explode.

More later.

UPDATE: More after the jump.

So, I have been a Blazer fan for a long time. At least the last 18 years, probably longer. I’ve been a Portlander for nigh-30 years, but just didn’t follow sports (except baseball) until high school, which just happens to be when the glory days were hitting full stride.

Until the last 6 or 7 years, the Blazers, to me, was the group on the floor. As I’ve matured and also started paying more attention, I’ve become more and more aware of the man (or men) behind the curtain. And knowing that they are there has taken the magic out of this franchise.

To a certain extent, I think a successful basketball franchise is about the guys on the floor, doing what they do on the floor. It is unfortunate that, over time, we’ve become more and more concerned with the off-floor aspects of NBA-ers’ lives, and as such they’ve gone from being sports professionals to sports personalities. And, as time has passed, the ravenous desires of the information age have fueled and, to a certain extent, forced those changes, as well as the greater evidence, and prominence, of the upper echelons of the organization.

When I was a kid, all I remember ever hearing about, when the Blazers were discussed, were the players and coaches and, occasionally, Mr. Glickman, the owner. Although I’m sure he had his hand in the pot, he didn’t necessarily play up the fact he was stirring it. So you looked at the stuff in the cauldron, not at the chef.

As time has gone on, Portland has had its attention drawn away from the product on the floor by the idiocy in the team’s front office and, ultimately, the evil that is Paul Allen.

I, like many others, am a tried and true Bob Whitsitt basher. But Bob’s moves were backed by Paul Allen. To think that Paul, widely known to be very interested in his team personnel, wasn’t exercising some sort of veto power is insane.

Paul’s influence in the on-court aspects of the game continues to be evident as we view the 3-headed monster that is the Allen/Patterson/Nash trinity that serves as the godhead of this team. Say what you will about Nash’s track record as the team’s GM, but remember that his isn’t the only finger on the trigger. When you see the over-inflated salaries of Darius Miles and Theo Ratliffe, make sure to take a moment to ponder Patterson’s, and Allen’s, involvement in the arrangements. When you see that we haven’t moved Darius, probably one of our more tradeable players, for someone more decent than a generic-name-cum-salary-cap-space player (or, for that matter, for anyone), take some time before accusing Nash of being unable to make a deal.

The incompetency on the personnel end is symptomatic of the incredible unconscionability of the organization and its leadership in other areas.


When Paul Allen got involved in the Portland Trailblazers, we had a good product on the floor. In 1987, before he came on board, our roster consisted of Kiki, Clyde, Terry, Jerome, Duckworth, Jim Paxson, Steve Johnson, and some other not-so-important people. The foundations of the future were in place. One of the main things holding that team back was the coaching. Exit Mike Schuler, enter Paul Allen and, soon after, Rick Adelman. Under Rick’s coaching, and with the addition of Buck Williams, Portland turned the corner and became a team to capture the imagination of a city that missed the 1977 champs.

Paul, a newer owner at the time, was not known among fans for interfering with the roster. But as time went on, Paul’s involvement became more evident. Geoff Petrie, one of the best GM’s in basketball, left. Rick Adelman left. The nucleus of our team was traded away and slowly replaced by the likes of Rasheed, Bonzi, Shawn Kemp, Rod Strickland (of multiple-DUII fame), Ruben Patterson (who’s first act upon moving to Denver will be registering as a sex offender), Scottie Pippen (notorious as the world’s worst tipper), Damon Stoudamire (who, to his credit, appears to have turned a corner), J.R. Ryder…well, you get the point.

Not until finally managing to take a team beloved by all who surveyed it, a model franchise, and turning it into the laughing-stock, the “Jail Blazers,” has this owner finally started trying to clean house.

The same acumen that ruined our team is, apparently, ruining the Paul Allen fortune.

Let’s look at some of Paul’s financial moves. Some good. Plenty bad.

Paul made billions of dollars off of Microsoft. Good move.

Paul sunk a bunch of money into the Experience Music Project. Questionable.

Paul bought KXL. Not bad, considering it has cornered the market on conservative talk in Portland, but not entirely impressive.

Paul financed SpaceShipOne, in hopes of pioneering private space flight. Questionable.

Paul bought Charter Communications. Stock high point somewhere around 2000, apparently, at $22+/share. Current stock value $1.20/share. Poor.

Paul built the Rose Garden. He did so by leveraging city-contributed land, $155 million in loans from financiers, a ticket surcharge which resulted in a $5 million contribution from the city, and throwing in some of his own money. Since, Paul has used laws protecting corporate shareholders to bankrupt himself out of ownership, sticking the lenders with a huge burden that they, no doubt, didn’t anticipate when dealing with a man of Allen’s wealth and power. And, to add insult to injury, he sued to try to get the Rose Garden logo removed from the Blazers playing floor. Ouch. All in all, bad move.

Paul formed Action Sports Media, which, since 1997, has only been able to sign agreements with 16 universities, despite pumping itself up as “The leader in full service collegiate sports marketing”. Not exactly impressive.

Paul created Clear Blue Sky Productions (now known as Vulcan Productions), a company that’s been hit-n-miss in the motion picture business and which hasn’t really established itself among the heavy-hitters. Not exactly Miramax, not a great move.

We could go on and on. Paul’s moves have been a mish-mash of spending money and hoping for results. He’s widely regarded as a man of accidental wealth. And he’s not exactly know for having a Midas touch with regards to how he spends his money.

With the Blazers, we’ve seen the fruits of his labor in the loss of the Rose Garden, the firing of multiple employees, and the mismanagement of pay-roll on a team of miscreants that turned the fan-base off.

Allen now complains that his ownership of the Portland Trailblazers is unworkable, unfair, and unsustainable. Because he’s lost money, and because he’ll continue to lose money, he wants to be bailed out.

He blames an onerous lease. One, I believe, that was between The Trailblazers Organization and Oregon Arena Corp, both Allen-owned entities. The lease with OAC fell, through succession rights, to Global Spectrum, which now runs the Rose Garden.

If the lease was such a bad deal, why did Allen originally make it with himself?

And if income from the sale of seats at the Rose Garden is what would be making money for Allen, why did he give up the Rose Garden?

Any way you slice it, this deal stinks. When one of the world’s richest men goes hat-in-hand to a cash-strapped government, looking for hand-outs (or even hands-up), the world has truly gone topsy-turvy. In a city where we’re scratching our heads about how to fund schools, keep people in jail, and provide services for the needy, the very thought of making life easier for a guy who’s dug his own hole makes me ill.

Make no mistake. Paul Allen is losing money on the Blazers because he’s mis-managed his investment for years. His future plight is his own problem. Paul Allen has nice silk sheets on his bed. At least when we force him to sleep in it, the $100 million he’s losing (out of a $25 billion fortune) should only be a pea under the mattress.

I don’t respect our government. But in this case, our indignant cries should be directed toward them. And, I think in this case, we may even hear the right answers out of City Hall.

UPDATE: Ian Furness of 1080 The Fan has his own conspiracy theory in play…

3 Comments so far

  1. Betsy (unregistered) on February 24th, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

    DAMN! I wanted dibs…!

  2. Rusty (unregistered) on February 24th, 2006 @ 4:34 pm

    Sorry. You snooze, you lose!

  3. Tom (unregistered) on February 25th, 2006 @ 2:42 am

    Paul Allen can spend his money on anything he likes. As long as he’s having fun, the amount of money he loses on the Blazers is irrelevant. Obviously, he isn’t having that much fun anymore. Why blame Whitsitt if Allen told him to win at any cost? Did Allen buy his Yachts to make a profit? No, they are more like a hobby to him, just as the Blazers are/were. They make it sound like he has sacrificed for the good of the team and the city all these years. It’s not a sacrifice if it’s what you enjoy. To right his own ship, he should either open up the purse strings again or sell the team.

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