This story is absolutely stunning and for so many reasons. The Warriors go for a record price, the new owner is not Oracle founder Larry Ellison, as just about everybody anticipated, and now Ellison says he really was the high bidder, but Chris Cohan decided not to sell to him.
Cohan failed to build a winning basketball franchise, but he turned out to be a staggering success as a businessman, selling the Warriors for an NBA record $450 million; $49 million more than the Suns sold for in 2004 and not to the perceived front-runner, Ellison.
The new owners are Menlo Park venture capitalist Joe Lacob and Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber. ABC7 spoke with Lacob Thursday afternoon.
Not many people beat out Ellison in business deals, so when ABC7 asked if he was surprised he was able to emerge with the team, Lacob said, "Of course. I mean, I would have to be lying if I said otherwise. Whether it's Larry Ellison or whoever, you know there are some very big players in this, but we don't know, I don't know, and still don't know what's in their heart. Do they really want it, did they really want it, how badly?"
Ellison released a statement saying, "Although I was the highest bidder, Chris Cohan decided to sell to someone else. In my experience, this is a bit unusual."
The man who brokered the deal, Sal Galatioto, said Ellison never personally entered the negotiations. He made a late offer, just as Lacob and Guber were finalizing their purchase.
"I don't know if he's getting bad advice, I don't know what happened, but this was a full and fair auction and if he wanted to buy the team, he'd own the team right now," said Galatioto.
It may take 60 days for the sale to be completed. Lacob says he has some thoughts on the fate of head coach Don Nelson and general manager Larry Riley, but did not want to discuss their future until the team formally changes hands. Lacob's goal is to bring a championship to long-suffering Warrior fans.
"It's a great franchise historically and we want to bring it back to that greatness," said Lacob.
Lacob is currently a minority owner in the Boston Celtics. He will have to sell his interest in the Celtics before taking over the Warriors. Lacob told ABC7 he's had Warrior's season tickets for about 10 years and plans to be a hands-on, visible owner. That is very different from Cohan, who became almost a recluse because the Warriors were losing so much.
Warrior fans should be very happy.