It’s usually a good day for anyone who holds a billion dollar asset. I mean, your day is not going to end sitting alone with a microwave dinner in a two-room apartment unless you’re the sort of life-battered misanthrope who prefers your day to end that way.
On the other hand, there’s Mark Davis, who desperately wants to upgrade the surroundings of his billion-dollar company but is finding out that (a) he can’t do it alone, and that (b) anyone willing to help him wants him to surrender his company in exchange.
Put another way, imagine that you want to upgrade your home and go to the bank for a home improvement loan, but the bank will only agree if it can have your kitchen and both bathrooms. Or pretend that you are a very good sprinter who wants to become world-class, but the only trainers who will work with you want you to saw off your right leg as collateral and convince you that hopping is the new Fosbury Flop.
We will now wait while you try to imagine what would have to happen for you to develop sympathy for Mark Davis.
Anyway, the latest shoe store to drop on him is the story that Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire who has pledged $650 million to the stadium that would house the Las Vegas Raiders, says he is willing to pull his money out of the deal because Davis wants too much (which is billionaire for “is willing to give up too little”).
This comes after the news from Oakland that Fortress Investment, a multi-billion dollar company which is allegedly bankrolling Ronnie Lott’s pitch to buy the Coliseum and (presumably) a piece of the Raiders, has presented a term sheet to Oakland and Alameda County that it would like to be rushed for presentation to the NFL owners.
In other words, Davis needs money to improve his team’s business profile, and anyone offering to help is going to want a significant piece of the business he is trying to improve in exchange. And that includes his fellow NFL owners, who have to vote to approve his move to Las Vegas – while the fee for their votes has not yet been expressed, you may rest assured that they aren’t doing him any favors for free.
Again, check your sympathy at the door. He inherited the business, thereby giving him a level of entitlement most people do not have.
But his options are as curious as they are varied, they all have a time element, and they all have pros and cons – the biggest con, of course, being that almost all of them end in him losing control of the team over time.
LAS VEGAS: Adelson clearly wants a piece of the team in exchange for his 33 percent contribution to the proposed $1.9 billion plant (he hasn’t said so, but nobody is buying any other version of the nature of his role). Davis needs 24 votes from his wealthier brethren, but their actions in the January vote that put the Rams in Inglewood and stopped the Chargers and Raiders from going to Carson showed where their respect for Davis truly lies. To allow him to move without strings is unthinkable for them, and what they seem to want most of Davis to divest himself, even incrementally, from day-to-day control.
INGLEWOOD: He still has the option to join Stan Kroenke in the Los Angeles venture if San Diego owner Dean Spanos either wins the hotel tax measure that would fund his new stadium or loses and declines the option he still holds on Inglewood. But Kroenke is a well-known squeezer of delicates (thus explaining the reason Spanos doesn’t want to join him) and would be the dominant figure in that relationship, both financially and tactically. He could conceivably hold his 40-plus percent control of the team (though Kroenke would not be above muscling in on that, too) but he would no longer be master of his domain.
OAKLAND: He could do business with Fortress, although the city and county seem unimpressed with the offer and their obligations within it, and Fortress would want its own piece of the franchise in exchange. Or he could stay in the Coliseum, as much as he may hate the place, and profit-take forever. He may be angry at the city for not rolling over for him, and he has tried to deflect blame for the current conditions on the city’s refusal to jump to his song, but Mayor Libby Schaaf has seen no compelling reason to worry about that – not even polling numbers. Her position is clearly, “If he stays, he stays, if he leaves, he leaves, and I’m good either way.”
In other words, there is no perfect scenario for Davis in any of these options. He gets a new home but loses a chunk of the only thing that makes him famous and/or rich, or he stays in a city whose power brokers are unmoved by his demands for better treatment, thus costing him the leverage he needs for the thing he says he wants most.
On the other hand, he still has a billion-dollar team that in the worst-case scenario he could sell for $2 billion-plus if he could slap Las Vegas or Los Angeles in front of the nickname. So no, there is no good reason why you should expend a moment’s pity toward him.
So he can either roll the dice and aim for the stars, knowing that anyone offering to help him is actually offering to help themselves to his belongings, or he can sit back and get comfortable with doing (and getting) nothing at all.
This, then, is what an NFL owner without leverage to get whatever he wants looks like. Think of it as you would a sighting of a great white elk – a once-in-a-lifetime thing that will stay within view for only a very short time. Bring binoculars and plenty of water. You’ll want stories for your grandchildren.