The media frenzy has been about Lane Kiffin’s future, but nothing will change with the Raiders until Al Davis is no longer in charge — and that could happen sooner than you think.
In October 2007, three East Coast businessmen — David Abrams, director of the Abrams Capital investment firm; Paul Leff, founder of the Perry Corporation money management firm; and Dan Goldring, managing director at Perry — paid $150 million for a 20 percent minority share of the Raiders, based on a team valuation of $750 million. As part of the deal, the three men get monthly business reports from Davis, whose previous policy has always been to give limited partners the mushroom treatment.
Though the Raiders denied that the deal gave the three businessmen the right to buy the team in the near-future, that’s the way these deals usually work. In a local example, Chris Cohan exercised his right to buy the Warriors after coming in originally as a minority partner. John York has been trying to get investors to supply money for the proposed new stadium in Santa Clara, but nobody has because York won’t give them the right to buy the club at a future date. No successful businessman would just turn over his money to York, and that goes double for Davis.
There are other reasons to think a change in control is near. Davis went on a frantic buying spree in the offseason, in a desperate attempt to right the ship. That’s unlikely to work, but if he’s gone in the near-future, he won’t have to worry about bad deals.
Chief executive Amy Trask has been all smiles and sunshine around the new partners when they’ve been at Raiders practices and games. That is not Trask’s usual style.
This kind of deal would also solve the succession question. At 79, Davis’ health has deteriorated to the point that he requires a wheelchair or golf cart to get around. If he sells before he dies, he would eliminate the problem of inheritance taxes for his heirs. His son, Mark, has no background in football and has neither the interest nor qualifications to run the organization.
The Raiders are potentially a much more profitable franchise, with a national fan base that is probably exceeded only by the Dallas Cowboys. Locally, though, there has been little effort to market to the longtime fans, nor any serious effort to curtail the outrageous behavior of many in the Raider Nation. I have received countless e-mails from fans who were so repelled by the behavior of the rowdy fans that they’ve vowed never to go to another Raiders game.
The franchise value would also rise significantly with a new stadium. Trask has floated the idea of a cooperative effort with the city of Oakland, but with a yearly loss of $22 million to cover the improvements to the Coliseum in 1995, no Oakland politician would think of committing more public money to that project.
A shared stadium with the 49ers would be a better idea, but that won’t happen until Davis leaves. He rejected the idea of a shared stadium in Los Angeles, before bringing his team back to Oakland.
Davis’ place in NFL history is secure, but he has lost the ability to put together a winning team. It’s time for him to turn over control.