BY Art Thiel 04:37PM 02/07/2014

Thiel: The case for Paul Allen as Seahawks MVP

The Seahawks owner is three times wealthier than the next richest NFL owner. The salary cap precludes buying a championship, but it’s possible to put lots in place for a 2nd title.

Paul Allen, Seahawks MVP? / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Feeling the post-binge fatigue? I am. But among those who watched and/or worked the Super Bowl as well as the parade, it’s amazing what quality night’s sleep and a deep breath can do. It makes possible a look back through the confetti to see a part of the narrative that was obvious but overlooked, yet vital to the current patter about more Super Bowls for Seattle.

It’s good to have the wealthiest owner in the NFL.

To summarize: Paul Allen bought the team, built the stadium — using tax dollars approved by voters via statewide special election that he paid for — OK’d the hires of Mike Holmgren, Tod Leiweke and Pete Carroll (who hired GM John Schneider), built on the shore of Lake Washington (for about $80 million) a gem of a practice facility/recruitment tool, played wicked guitar at the post-game party at the team hotel, then agreed to cover the costs of the parade’s extra security and clean-up.

Allen is no Malcolm Smith (a k a King of the Seventh Round Mutts), but he makes a considerable case for big-picture Most Valuable Person.

For many, it is easy to say that for a man whose net worth is listed at $15.8 billion, No. 26 on the list of Forbes wealthiest Americans, Allen should be able to pay for all things ball the moment his feet hit the floor in the morning, then order breakfast. Just as it is true that his original Seahawks investment of $194 million in 1997 is now worth more than $1 billion. So if/when he sells, it will go down as one of his best post-Microsoft plays.

But the fact is, a man of many interests also chose the NFL gig. More important, he chose to stay the hell out of micro-managing an enterprise in which he has no expertise. A glance around the league shows what can happen when owners blunder  — to cite three examples, Jerry Jones in Dallas, Dan Snyder in Washington and whatever is happening in Cleveland.

In his other major sports ownership, he used to be more hands-on, with more dubious results. He’s owned the NBA Portland Trail Blazers since 1988, and has yet to win a championship, with only two appearances in the Finals (1990, 1992).

The faithful in Portland were much like the 12th Man in Seattle — 21 consecutive years of sellouts. But as controversies raged (remember the Jail Blazers?), ardor waned and calls came for Allen to sell the team (sound familiar, Mariners fans?). Now the Blazers have their best team in years — 35-14, the NBA’s fifth-best record —  and hope flares anew.

In Seattle, he’s a winner in a manner that has the post-Super Bowl talk all about the possibility of multiple championships with the NFL’s fourth-youngest team. But important as is retaining free agents such as WR Golden Tate and DL Michael Bennett, it is more important to keep the management team in place.

As in Pete Carroll. He’s entering the final year of the five-year he signed to leave USC.

In his final press conference after the parade Wednesday, Carroll was asked his what his position was regarding an extension.

“I’m sitting in great shape,” he said, repeating, “I’m in great shape.”

Whatever that means isn’t clear, but it does not suggest a need for ooga horns. Carroll knows he has landed a sweet gig that is paying him $7 million, which is supposedly second only to the$7.5 million of New England’s Bill Belichick and Kansas City’s Andy Reid, and equal to Jeff Fisher in St. Louis and John Harbaugh in Baltimore.

After winning a Super Bowl, making Carroll the game’s highest-paid coach should be a no-brainer. Since there is no salary cap on coaches, or on facilities, or anything else but player salaries, Allen can do right by Carroll and his assistants as well as the franchise by committing to extensions that assure stability, which only adds to the attractiveness of the Seahawks.

Besides the region-wide tidal wave of endorphins created between 700,000 fans and about 100 or so members of the Seahawks clan, the group hug Wednesday sent a message to NFL free-agent players that the Seahawks already understood — the epicenter of the NFL potentially has shifted to the Northwest.

The Seahawks are the 19th franchise to win a Super Bowl. Only 12 have won twice; eight, more than twice. Intense as was the celebration, so was the urgency to get the second crown.

In an interview with Forbes before the Super Bowl, Allen, 61, who has twice survived episodes of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, hinted at his own urgency.

“This is my fourth chance for a championship, twice with the Trail Blazers and now my second time with the Seahawks,” he said. “It would be incredibly exciting and satisfying to bring home the trophy for the fans and the city and the region. I’m excited, but we’re up against a very strong opponent and you never know how these things will turn out.

“At one point, I was the youngest owner in major league sports. I’m not that anymore. These chances don’t come along often. So when they do, you really want to get over the hump and bring home the trophy.”

With a salary cap, no one can buy his way to an NFL championship. But with an owner whose net worth is three times greater than the next-richest owner, Stan Kroenke of the St. Louis Rams, a second hump is eminently scalable when resources are maximized, interference minimized and urgency is upon all.

Perhaps that is what Carroll meant about being in great shape.


  • poulsbogary

    I wouldn’t have any problem whatsoever with him purchasing the Mariners.

    • art thiel

      He, however, would.

      • 1coolguy

        Yep. Allen is no fool.

    • Kirkland

      Unfortunately, NFL rules prohibit him from owning the M’s as long as he owns the Seahawks. NFL owners cannot own a non-football team in an NFL city. That’s why he can own the Blazers in non-NFL Portland, but can’t buy the M’s (or a revived Sonics or a Seattle NHL team) unless he sells a majority share of the Hawks.

      I love technicalities. (sigh)

      • art thiel

        Rules aside, he would pass. I see Allen streamlining his assets, not adding.

        • billy bob

          Have you looked into the succession plan were something to happen to Allen, god forbid? Who would own the team?

  • LennyLovesLonnie

    If only Ackerley had been willing to sell Allen the Sonics…

    • art thiel

      I remember when Ackerley took away Allen”s floor seats at the Key . . .

      • 1coolguy

        What??? He did? Why?

        • art thiel

          He heard Allen had ambitions to buy the Sonics, and resented the hell out of that.

      • Billy bob

        Why did he do that?

  • 1coolguy

    It would be great to see what he could do with the M’s BUT unlike the NFL, the union contract rules in MLB are idiotic: Enough to give any NFL owner a heart attack.
    Guaranteed contracts, even though the guy has been cut or injured???
    Idiocy, which is why the typical NFL ownership is SOOOOO much more valuable than an NBA or MLB team will ever be.
    Figgins @ $36m over 4 years, Beltre @ $64m over 5 years and Sexson @ $50m over 4 years come to mind. EEEEEEEEEEEEEK!
    So, as much as I’d like to see LINCOLN get the H out of town, Allen is too smart to accommodate the M’s. Unfortunately for fans.

    • art thiel

      Then again, the Mariners make money on an annual basis, and will make even more off their RSN ownership. The baseball part, well, that’s secondary.

      • 1coolguy

        Yep, you are right. In most markets it doesn’t matter what the product is on the field, with the ancillary revenues even dog franchises like the M’s can make a great profit.
        It always amazes me how fans (fanatics, obviously) continue to support teams like the M’s who show absolutely no (or very little) history of achievement. Wow, must be nice to be crummy at something and still make out.

  • 1coolguy

    Allen for MVP – so true.
    Carroll for Governor! Imagine how he’d shake things up. State employees would be running for their lives, as Kam would be the enforcer! haha

    • art thiel

      I think Carroll might be a little frustrated by government. Can’t cut anyone, and nobody would believe anything he said.

      • 1coolguy

        Unfortunately you are right. This is exactly why there are no longer any business people who run for elected office any more. They are all attorneys and government lifers: They know how to BS and work the system, both “attributes” successful people like Carroll do not have.

  • Matt712

    What makes Allen such a great owner is not just the classic wish-list trait of keeping his hands out of where they don’t belong; it was (and seemingly ironically so) that someone of that nature wasn’t afraid, when the time came, to completely clean house, or in a more appropriate vernacular… to reboot.

    • art thiel

      Allen is one who can afford sunk costs, such as the $16M owed to Mora. Temporarily looking bad is something he, and most moguls, get used to.

  • Will

    15.8 billion can buy a lot of guitar lessons, train stations and lakes named Union.

    • art thiel

      Not breaking news, Will. He could just as easily have ignored sports, like his fellow co-founder, Bill Gates.

  • jafabian

    Paul rightfully was chose to raise the 12th Man Flag for the 49er game. It was very gutsy of him to terminate Mora after only one season and to hire Carroll from USC. And he’s been rewarded handsomely. The clun has done more than win a championship. The Super Bowl is the USA’s World Cup. By winning I predict this team will be like the 1979 Sonics where by winning the players and coaches involved have achieved immortality around here. They won’t be forgotten.

    Everything starts with Paul though. He’s taken the taste of the Behring era away and replaced it with something pretty sweet.

    • art thiel

      Allen had to can Ruskell, who took them to the Super Bowl, and Mora, within a month, tell Holmgren no and Carroll yes by giving him nearly total control.

  • oldcrimson

    Somewhere last week, I saw Allen referred to as the “co-owner” of the Hawks – can’t remember where, but I did a double-take/check. What’s that all about? Just a mistake? Or is Allen ‘co-owner’ along with Vulcan – or some other tax shelter trick?

    • art thiel

      No. He is the 100 percent owner. Whether the docs say Vulcan or First and Goal, I don’t know.

  • osoviejo

    Not my money, but I was thinking the other day how cool it would be if -everyone- in the organization got rings. Maybe one for the players, coaches, trainers, and top front office, and a lesser one for everyone else.

    I also wonder if they’re going to give a ring to the 12s, like they did a few years ago with the game ball.

    • art thiel

      Good idea. My guess is there will be some bonuses, be it rings, cash or a dreadlock from Sherman, for all.

  • Paul Allen has always seemed to be the coolest rich guy on the planet. We’re lucky to have him as owner of our favorite football club.

  • Bayview Herb

    Can a team exceed the salary cap under any circumstances? Like losing draft picks in exchange?