SEATTLE – Since the day Paul Allen died in October 2018, rumors have circulated about what will happen to his many high-priced and high-profile assets, which includes the Seattle Seahawks.
The month after his death, NFL.com reported that “while no sale is imminent, the expectation is that the team ultimately will be sold” and that Allen had filed a succession plan with the league that included the directive that the Paul G. Allen Foundation would be the beneficiary of any proceeds from a sale.
Now 3½ years later, the team remains in the hands of Allen’s sister, Jody Allen, who was elevated to the official title of team chair following the death of Paul Allen, who bought the team in 1997.
But speculation about the future of the team is understandable and inevitable, and continued Tuesday with a report from John Canzano, a Portland-based writer and talk show host, that the Seahawks could be for sale at some point in the next few years.
Jody Allen also remains the owner of the Portland Trail Blazers – which Paul Allen bought in 1988 – and Canzano wrote Tuesday that “insiders expect the Blazers to be positioned for auction in the next 6-18 months. The Seahawks could follow shortly after, but sources say Jody Allen may be wrangling to keep a piece of the NFL franchise.”
Canzano noted further that Allen’s trust, established in 1993, directed that his assets be sold upon his death and used to “fund his passion projects,” according to a source.
“None of this is up in the air,” the source told Canzano. “The instructions are clear: The sports franchises and everything in the trust must be sold.”
But if the Seahawks might eventually be sold, nothing appears imminent.
A source close to the situation told the Seattle Times on Tuesday that the Seahawks are not for sale and that there is no indication they will be anytime soon.
But some observers have noted that Jody Allen, 63, has been overseeing the selling off of some other assets in recent months.
A story in the Los Angeles Times in January began “Paul Allen’s properties are selling like hotcakes” and noted that within the previous month the estate had sold both his “prized land in Beverly Crest” for $65 million and a “lavish compound a few miles away” for $45 million.
That Jody Allen has maintained an exceedingly low profile since taking over the Seahawks helps fuel speculation. She has given no interviews and only a few statements.
She was, however, as visible as she’s been during her time as team chair during the draft April 28-30, seen in the war room during the first round, with the team posting pictures of her on its website.
The team is also expected to release the first episode Wednesday of its new “The Sound” monthly video series on YouTube promising “behind-the-scenes” coverage of the team, with the initial episode focusing on the draft and expected to include Allen.
Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider also mentioned Allen regularly in their news conference following the trade of Russell Wilson and then again during the draft, with Carroll at one point noting that Allen had told them they were “back in your wheelhouse” in having a multitude of draft picks and salary cap space over the next two years to build the team back to where it was when it won the Super Bowl in 2013.
That anecdote, along with Allen’s strong statement in a team news release supporting the Wilson trade and that it was precipitated by Wilson wanting out, were undoubtedly hoped by the team to also portray Allen as engaged and ready for what logically could be at least a two-year process of getting the team back to where it was with a strong base of talent and a quarterback of the future.
While the team made clear that from its end, the trade of Wilson was solely for football reasons, and also because he had told them he would not sign a new long-term contract when his current deal runs out in 2023, some have speculated his trade was in part to shed a potentially costly asset before a potential sale.
The Seahawks, though, have always been careful in their long-term spending, most years of the Schneider tenure since 2010 ranking near the bottom of the league in dead cap (meaning, money paid to players no longer on the roster). NFL rules also dictate teams cannot just stop spending money – rules require that teams spend at least 89% of their cap over a four-year period. The Seahawks have a total cap spending for the 2022 season of $229.5 million, 15th highest in the NFL (the most is Jacksonville at $254 million, the lowest is the Baltimore Ravens at $214 million, per Spotrac).
The one NFL team that is for sale is Wilson’s new one, the Broncos.
The Broncos were put up for sale in February by the Pat Bowlen Trust and have five bidders, with a new owner expected in place by the beginning of the regular season.
Estimates are that the Broncos could fetch $5 billion, which would be a massive increase from the last NFL team that was sold, the Carolina Panthers, who netted $2.275 billion in 2018, an NFL record.
If nothing else, that shows that Allen has no real need to sell the team anytime soon – NFL franchise values are only going to keep increasing.
Before Carolina, the last team to be sold was the Buffalo Bills in 2014 at $1.1 billion.
Forbes Magazine noted last fall that the value of NFL franchises has increased an average of 14% over the last five years.
And if/when Jody Allen does sell, the team will result in one of the family’s best investments. When Paul Allen bought the Seahawks in 1997 he paid $194 million.
Forbes Magazine last fall rated the Seahawks as the 12th-most valuable NFL team, just behind Denver at No. 10, with an estimated value of $3.5 billion.
At some point, Jody Allen will surely cash in.
But for now, there remains no clear indication that day is anytime soon.