Warriors sold for record $450M; Guber to use hands-on approach
Peter Guber and Joseph Lacob bought the Golden St. Warriors for a record $450M
The Warriors had only one postseason appearance under Chris Cohan's tenure
The deal's broker said the agreement was reached near July 4; Ellison didn't bid
Peter Guber, the Hollywood power broker who, along with venture capitalist Joseph Lacob, purchased the Golden State Warriors on Thursday for a record $450 million, said he does not know what his impending ownership means for the immediate future of the embattled franchise.
The sale still has to be approved by the league's Board of Governors, which is likely to bleed into September, a month before the start of the preseason, and perhaps October.
With that little time, it seems unlikely that Guber and Lacob would made whosesale changes to an organization that badly needs them given they have had only one postseason appearance in the 16-year tenure of Chris Cohan.
But Guber, whose bid beat out Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, said it is far too soon to know what will be done after they officially take control of the organization.
"I wouldn't be able to answer that even if I knew the answer," Guber told SI.com. "We haven't done the analysis. I honestly, truthfully don't know the answer. That is the process of examination. There are a lot of forces at work. The collective bargaining agreement is looming. The issues of free agency and trades and all kind of things are going on. We have to transition and we don't know how long this process will unfold."
What is clear is that Guber intends to be a hands-on owner despite living in Los Angeles, where he runs Mandalay Entertainment.
Guber said he has tried in the past to purchase other NBA franchises, including the Miami Heat, but has been unsuccessful.
When Lacob contacted him and asked him to join forces, Guber said there was little question that the Warriors were an organization worth pursuing.
"This is so simple that it staggers my imagination," Guber said. "Remember when you were a kid and you have a compass with a point? So I put that point in L.A., and realized if you can't touch the cloth and can't feel the audience then you are not going to be successful.
"What is interesting is when I put that compass in a circle and see the Bay Area. I can get there in 50 minutes, door-to-door. When I had to go to Miami, I had to have wagon trains and build a hotel. Eventually I said let's just watch it on television. But with this, you have to show up to be successful. You have to participate. I didn't get the Lakers and I didn't get the Clippers. The Warriors were in the window of the compass."
The most pressing concerns are the futures of coach Don Nelson, who is owed $6 million in the final year of his contract, as well as general manager Larry Riley and president Robert Rowell.
In an injury-plagued 2009-2010, Nelson appeared to lose interest at the same time he became the winningest coach, surpassing Lenny Wilkens, in NBA history. He was often criticized for his laconic demeanor on the bench. It was widely assumed that if Ellison took over, he was going to sweep out the entire front office. Now, things are uncertain.
"I like to be impatient," Guber said. "But I don't want to be imprudent."
Interestingly, Guber and Lacob had to outbid one of the world's most powerful men and ruthless negotiators to obtain the franchise from Cohan, who purchased the team in 1995 for $119 million.
In an odd day of twists, Ellison said they did not outbid him. After the announcement of the agreement, Ellison -- who has not been available to comment throughout the process --- said in a prepared statement that he submitted a bid above the $450 million that Guber and Lacob offered.
"Although I was the highest bidder, Chris Cohan decided to sell to someone else. In my experience this is a bit unusual. Nonetheless, I wish the Warriors and their fans nothing but success under their new ownership."
But Sal Galatioto, who brokered the sale for Cohan, said Ellison's bid came in far too late. He said Cohan and Guber came to an agreement around July 4, and Ellison did not submit his bid -- which Galatioto declined to expand upon but which one source said was only a few million more than the winner -- until after the sides had started the closing process in the last few days.
"We are in business to turn down the high bidder?" Galatioto said. "How long would I be in business if I turned down the high bidder? I don't think he believed we got a figure at 450 until it was too late."
Those within the organization question whether Ellison ever even wanted to truly purchase the team. If he wanted it, they said, he could have had it. He is worth $27 billion, according to Forbes.
Instead, Ellison delayed a decision, seemingly unwilling to bid against himself, though Galatioto said he informed several of Ellison's business partners on multiple occasions that they had a bid of $450 million and gave him plenty of time to respond.
Warriors employees reason that if Ellison was going to be that discerning about purchasing the team, he probably would not have been open to spending whatever it takes to turn around a team that seems to be in constant turmoil.
Several outlets reported in recent days that Ellison -- whose company's name adorns the outside of the arena as the lead sponsor -- was on the verge of purchasing the team.
Instead, the franchise went for a $49 million more than Robert Sarver paid for the Phoenix Suns in 2004 despite the fact Oracle Arena is owned by Alameda County.
Guber has been a part of the entertainment industry for three decades, producing or executive producing blockbuster films like Rain Man, Batman, The Color Purple and Flashdance. His films have earned more than $3 billion in worldwide revenue.
Lacob became a part owner of the Celtics in 2006. He owns an estimated 10 percent and has to divest himself of that commitment. He is a partner in the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Beyer and will serve as the face of the organization, though Guber said the two will jointly make all the decisions and be proactive owners.
"As Joe says and we say, we bring the best and the brightest, which means we try to inspire and perspire at the same moment," Guber said. "Win, baby, win. We have to win on the floor and in and the hearts and minds of the people in the Bay Area. We just don't have all that worked out just yet how we are going to do that." Cohan, widely criticized for years as a poor owner with worse decision-making, has been facing financial difficulties because of unpaid taxes he owes the IRS.
"As I conclude my tenure as owner of the Warriors, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my sincerest gratitude, and to personally say thank you to the "best fans in all of sports," Cohan said in a statement. "It's a phrase that is too often utilized by players, coaches, executives and owners in all sports leagues, but I can say without reservation and unbridled conviction that Warriors fans have earned the sole right of that honor and distinction. Thank you for making Golden State Warriors basketball the incredible fan experience that it has become."