See Paul Allen. Run, Southampton. RUN!!

Having watched Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen run the local NBA sports franchise from a front-row seat of sorts, I have some advice for the citizens, supporters, and owners of England's Southampton in the wake of speculation that he may purchase that club: Run. For the LOVE OF GOD, run.

By way of rough translation, if the pro basketball in the States featured promotion/relegation, and if it were possible to plumb the depths of regional, non-conference play, the Portland Trailblazers would be doing it. They'd be two years away from scratching at the basement door to the friggin' Continental Basketball Association right around now.

Think about it.

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Rob said...

It sounds like the perfect match to me.

Dan said...

Could you possibly explain how and why?

The Manly Ferry said...

It wasn't till I returned to the blog today and noted that the sitemeter showing an unusually high number of hits that it dawned on me that Southhampton fans might have stumbled on this entry. Sorry for not responding; I wasn't being coy.

Here, for the curious, is a short and loosely accurate account of what Paul Allen has done to the Portland NBA franchise. In basic terms, he dragged a perennial playoff team and an occasional finalist to one of the worst teams in the league. Worse, he's lost shitloads of money along the way. So that's two counts of incompetence.

The money side caved for two reasons: first, Allen routinely broke the NBA's salary cap, which obliged him to pay a "luxury tax" for every dollar he went over the cap - and this was considerable for some time. That he had players that, 1) the public hated due to criminal records, shitty attitudes, etc.*, and, 2) who played gradually worse, beginning with the late-1990s fourth-quarter, 15-point collapse against the LA Lakers.

I asterisked the "shitty attitudes" thing because the story here was complex. There was a Portland player named Rasheed Wallace, who was very, very talented, but who 1) didn't want to assume "a leadership role" on the team, and 2) didn't buy into the role-model/media-friendly garbage that is sometimes expected of professional athletes, especially the high-profile ones. So Rasheed alienated a lot of Portland fans, who lumped him in with some of the actual "criminals" on the team (our nickname was the "Jailblazers" for a while, a play on the franchise name "Trailblazers"), but, the reality was his worst offense, after pissing off all the fans, was smoking a drug that is hardly performance enhancing. This same equation applied to guys like Bonzi Wells and, Wallace's occasional "partner in crime" (crap...they just got stoned together), Damon Stoudamire.

All that ended a couple years ago. The compensate, the Blazers dumped close to their entire line-up and tried to restock the team with men of "good character." What they got was a bunch of nice guys, but, so far, mediocre basketball players. In defense of this practice, though, the Blazers did improve this most recent season...though it should be noted they didn't make the playoffs.

But the crowning achievement of the Allen years was his handling of the Rose Garden, a facility he built for the team - and without public money. The problems here started with the lease Allen signed to build the Rose Garden. At some seeminly random point - well, it actually coincided with the time the entire team got dumped - he decided he was paying too much per month and wanted to renegotiate the terms. When his creditors chucked the deal back at him with a "NO" stamped on it, Allen, who, again, is a billionaire, declared the business that runs the Rose Garden bankrupt. During this period, the creditors took over operating the Rose Garden and took in all the revenue streams, as opposed to the Blazers getting them. As such, still more money was lost - especially with attendance for the sputtering team tailing off. The rate of loss only slowed when Allen finally succumbed to the mess he created and bought back the Rose Garden - at an incredible loss (if I understand it correctly).

Long story short, the guy runs his businesses something worse than horribly. He also hires personnel who don't seem to do all that swell in building a team. So, yeah, if I were a Southampton fan or front-office worker, I'd hide if and when Allen shows up for a meeting; he's not someone you want running a sports franchise.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, maybe its down to the perception of how Allen runs his business. If you take a look at some of the Oregon business websites they talk about what a good decision it was by Mr Allen declaring the club bankrupt, wiping its debts and then buying the whole lot back again.

Yes, you have to start again but

- you have no debts
- you aren't losing the $100million dollars you were losing monthly \ weekly \ whatever
- you have a billionaire in charge.

Surely that all points to success doesn't it?

John said...

To his credit the man with the $10 smile has managed to field a successful American football team in Seattle. I’d imagine a lot of blame has to be aimed at “Trader Bob” Whitsitt as far as the Jailblazers are concerned. Bob’s termination as Blazers general manager and Hawks team president is probably a testament to Paul Allen learning from his mistakes or at least listening to the right consultants. I would anticipate a strategy similar to the successful one in Seattle instead of the disaster that became the Blazers.

SaintJacko said...

What is Allen like in terms of backing his managers and providing money to finance transfers? These are probably the key questions that Saints fans want to ask, bearing in mind we have a reasonably popular manager, but could be facing financial struggles unless a rich investor can be brought in!
Also, does he leave the running of the team to the manager and coaches or does he have a tendency to interfere? Interference is generally unpopular with British fans!

The Manly Ferry said...

Lots of helpful stuff up there. To give my opinions, and they're not much better than that, on each:

- for "anonymous": that's a fair point. He did stop the losses to himself, but starved the team in the process. Good for business, bad for the team; it depends on where your interests lay, I suppose. And, yeah, he's a billionaire and that's a good thing: in terms of post-Microsoft investments, the man is eating shit, losing money hand-over-fist.

- For John: the only quibble there: how long did it take him to off-load Whitsitt? Too long, by most estimations. But, take comfort Southampton fans; the Seattle Seahawks have been a decent team - and they raped the shit out of Seattle to publicly fund their stadium.

- saintjacko, the above should provide some comfort. Regarding cash for players, the somewhat jargon-y phrase "luxury tax" gets at that: he spent like a madman to build a team. Unfortunately for Portland, he spent it on the wrong players, but, in better hands than Whitsitt's, we're talking insane amounts of money; not Roman Abrahamovich (can't recall his name; the Chelsea dude) money, but pretty nuts. And the Whitsitt, now Steve Patterson (again, might have the name wrong) situation should apply to personnel decisions with Southampton: Allen seems pretty hands off, letting his managers do what they will; if you've got the right people managing, you'll be fine.

So....maybe I've got the title all wrong. Worst case, he'll lose you a lot of money. On the upside, though, he's got money to burn and you've already got St. Mary's, right?

Anonymous said...

As a loyal 'Saints' fan I would have to say that we all hope that Mr Allen has learnt from his past mistakes and will take Southampton FC to its rightful position in the Premiership.
Yes the club does need some money injected, but for a reasonable investment the return, in enjoyment for the many thousands of loyal fans, and investors is huge. The financial rewards will surely follow too!
All true Saints fans are watching events with great interest. The club needs some stability and would appreciate the loyalty of a wealthy investor who will stick around for the long haul.
Southampton FC is a great club, with great values and a bright future.
Mr Allen will be welcome at 'fortress' St Mary's. I will gladly sing his name from the Northam stand on Saturday afternoons but he will be judged by his actions. Come on you reds!!!!

Marls said...

As a lifelong saints fan... longsuffering, and probably crazy about my team, I have been longing for Mr Allen to buy our club. We have a great support base... grannies and grandads through to the Northam loyal. And everyone of us is waiting for the announcement that will change Saturdays in the football season for good! We are a family club... in every sense of the word.. and if Mr Allen finally reaches for his cheque book then there will be jubilation all round, and I for one will throw my apple in the bin, grab myself the stars and stripes and welcome him warmly (understatment) to his first game at St Marys!

Mat said...

Mr Allens decision to ignore Southampton's embarrasing beg for cash probably shows more prudence than most give him credit for.