FOX Sports Exclusive
Are the Warriors a winning investment?
I once asked billionaire investor Warren Buffett how he picks a stock to buy.
He told me, “It’s like an NFL team picking up a new quarterback. You never want to buy the guy who’s just won the Super Bowl. He’s too expensive. You wanna buy the guy with a terrific record but who’s lying in a hospital bed with a sprained ankle. You know how good he is, you know he’s going to heal, you know he’s gonna come back, but you’re getting him at a cheaper price.”
Peter Guber: "I love sports. I love entertainment. I love the combination."AMCTV.com
So how should we look at the sale of the Golden State Warriors — who could be called the NBA’s Bad News Bears — to the investment team of entertainment guru turned minor-league-baseball bigwig Peter Guber and his venture capitalist partner Joe Lacob for a reported $450 million?
In a FOXSports.com exclusive interview, Guber spoke with us about the situation. He was hyper-cautious about talking specifically to the Warriors' acquisition because the deal hasn’t been approved by the NBA. (League senior VP Mike Bass says, “We're processing the application. Everything is on track, but we haven't yet set a date for a vote by the NBA's Board of Governors.")
But Guber did tell me he doesn’t see the Warriors as having a "leg in a sling" at all.
“It is not moribund. It is not worn out,” said Guber. “There is a rabid and powerful fan base in an area that is second to none. With Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose as the controlled area, it’s an incredible marketplace. It is arguably the sixth-largest market, and it has a great footprint and a great fan base. And it has that fan base where the team has only one year been in the playoffs. Opportunistically, we have hopefully a good opportunity.”
His point: If the team has managed solid attendance (more than 18,000 fans per game for five straight years) with such a pathetic record (26-56 last season), just think what it could do with a championship contender.
Guber is psyched; he was speaking a mile a minute during our conversation. And he drew extensively from his baseball experience. His company, Mandalay Baseball Properties, now owns seven minor-league teams. In fact, I spoke with him for this column the day he acquired the Oklahoma City RedHawks franchise, the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.
When I mentioned the neat trick his apparently successful effort was — snatching the Warriors in the final stretch of negotiations from the hands of Oracle’s billionaire founder and counter-bidder, Larry Ellison, who has a track record as a successful deal-maker — Guber immediately snapped to correct me.
“It is not amazing when you realize we have (baseball) teams in Ohio and in Pennsylvania, Texas and all over the country. When you have those teams and you have people all over the country, you are a national sports provider, you have a footprint, you are approved by Major League Baseball, a professional sports authority. So you are already in the club, so to speak.”
But NBA teams are, so to speak, a whole different ball game. I remember attending Columbus Clippers Triple-A baseball games when I lived in Ohio. Hello? Fans rang cowbells in the stands. Compare that to Lakers or Bulls games with their smokin’ hot dancers, light shows, dry ice and Jay-Z.
But think about it: Guber may be perfectly suited for this, considering his background as a movie and television producer who’s got Oscar-winning movies to his credit. The real question: If the Warriors' sale goes through, will he be more sizzle or steak as an owner?
“I love sports. I love entertainment. I love the combination ... when you think about a sport, you think about three things. You are thinking about winning. You are thinking about fielding a competitive team. And you are thinking about fan experience in the community. Those are always your touch points, whether it’s the Oklahoma City team, whether it’s the Yankees’ Triple-A team, whether it’s, you know, the Dayton Dragons or whether you’re thinking of Batman. Whatever things you’ve done, we’ve always thought in those terms of having to connect your story with your audience. The idea will be to consider all those components as important and vital.”
But will Warriors fans buy Mr. Hollywood as truly committed to helping the team win? Guber refused to comment on whether, as an owner, he and Lacob would go over the salary cap and pay the luxury tax to get a LeBron-type player. He wouldn’t talk about the arena location. Heck, he wouldn’t talk about his dream singer for the national anthem. He seems seriously gun-shy, perhaps still stung by having lost out years ago in the 11th hour in his bid for the Oakland A’s.
“(Investor partner) Bob Piccinini and I bought the Oakland A's, made the deal, signed the deal.... Billy Beane came to the house, made a deal with him to be the president with an equity piece. And then Bud Selig decided that at that point in time, contraction was in the air. They were thinking of contracting two teams in Major League Baseball, the Minnesota Twins and the Oakland A’s. Subsequently they didn’t.”
One thing this entertainment/sports hybrid of a businessman isn’t shy about discussing is his vision for winning.
“Winning is an attitude as well as aptitude. You can bring in all kinds of things, but the idea is every element in the equation is a detail, and God is in the details. So all those details have a cumulative effect that says to the audience that this ownership, that this management is interested in my experience and is active in my rescue to make sure that experience is top notch.”
So listen up, Warriors fans: What’s the one characteristic Guber feels is the most important thing necessary to have as a businessman in sports?
“Keep the ‘e’ in front of the three-letter word ‘ego’ a small letter. Everybody has an ego, and that ego can be a very positive force in doing the very best. But when you think it’s about you, you are in trouble and the business and enterprise you’re managing will be in trouble. So the trick is to recognize that you are a steward. You are a steward of this asset, and you must leave it better for your having been involved than when you found it.”
The Warriors’ home opener is Oct. 27 against Houston. If the deal is approved by that date, watch out. You can only imagine what kind of theatrical pregame show Guber will have cooked up by then.
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