Canny Mark Davis to become a Vegas Billionaire

Mark Davis Raiders

Mark Davis has turned the Raiders around not only on the field of play but also in the eyes of the NFL.  By taking the team to Las Vegas he may also be turning his own finances around and lining himself up to become an unexpected billionaire.

Having inherited a controlling interest in the Raiders in 2011 from his father, Al Davis, along with his Mother, Mark took day to day control. Since then there has been much speculation about the apparent lack of finances available to the team with many suggesting that the Davises might sell the team completely.  With the team not reaching the playoffs since 2002, a revolving door of average-to-poor coaches and playing staff and a home stadium that really should be condemned, the outlook for Mark and the Raiders was bleak.

Then came the turnaround.  General Manager Reggie McKenzie became the architect of a winning team almost out of nowhere.  By firing Dennis Allen in favour of Jack del Rio, putting together two good drafts with Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper amongst them, and some smart acquisition in free agency, the team has been rejuvenated.

The master-stroke off the field, though, has been Mark Davis’ handling of the business.  First of all he changed the NFLs opinion of the Raiders by repaying a circa $50 million debt owed to the NFL for the sale of personal seat licenses at the Coliseum in Oakland. Secondly, after a while, the NFL has realised Mark isn’t as abrasive as his father.  Indeed, luminaries such as the hugely influential Robert Kraft of the Patriots has been quoted as saying “he’s become a good partner of the league”,  Also, Commissioner Goodall has been impressed by Mark Davis’ lack of complaint when the league voted against the Raiders return to Los Angeles.  Both of which could explain why the NFL seems to be getting behind the move to Vegas.

And there’s the rub.  With a winning team and a move to Vegas, the Raiders could become one of the most valuable sports franchises out there.

Irsay Optimistic of Vegas Move

Jim Irsay
Jim Irsay optimistic of Vegas move

Jim Irsay, owner and CEO of The Colts told reporters at the NFL Winter Meeting in Texas that he thought that there was “a real want and real enthusiasm from the powers that be to have an NFL team there [Vegas]”. He also added that he thought Las Vegas could support an NFL team and that he saw little or no optimism with respect to a new stadium in Oakland.

Rather surprisingly, Comissioner Goodell echoed some of Irsay’s sentiments.

At the same meeting Irsay said he would be “surprised” if the San Diego Chargers exercised their option to relocate to Los Angeles before the January 15th, 2017, deadline.  Adding that it would be “fruitless” for the league to extend the long-established deadline.

Oakland too little, too late?

oakland city
Too little, too late?

Oakland’s city and county officials voted in favour of entering negotiations to keep the Raiders in Oakland, by backing Ronnie Lott’s and Rodney Peete’s $1.3 billion proposal.

The hard-won agreement will include $350million of public money, but nothing has been confirmed as to where, exactly, that money would come from.

The City voted 7-1 in favour of entering negotiations whilst County was a bit more reticent, taking three hours of discussions to some to a 3-2 agreement.

With The Raiders needing just one win to confirm their playoff status, it was also revealed that any proposal to move to Vegas would not be tabled until the team were out of the hunt for Superbowl honours (or as we optimists like to think, when they win it), rather than at the first opportunity on 2nd January.

Over in San Diego, the Council was scrambling to save ‘their’ Chargers from moving with a proposal to lease the Qualcomm Stadium to the team for $1 per year, whilst talks for a new stadium progress.

So what is it with local politicians in Oakland and San Diego?  You’ve had months, no years, to come up with proposals for keeping your teams. So why leave it to the very last minute to get your backsides in gear?  How can you be taken seriously if you value the teams so little as to only be galvanised when it looks like they are leaving?

Last Ditch Effort from Lott

Ronnie Lott, LA Raider
Ronnie Lott, LA Raider

Officials from the NFL and members of the Oakland Raiders have a meeting scheduled with an Oakland based investment group for further discussions on keeping the Raiders right where they are. The investment group is headlined by the Lott Group, aptly named after Hall of Fame cornerback and Ex-Los Angeles Raider, Ronnie Lott.

Interesting how a hero who made his name playing for the Raiders outside of Oakland wants them to now stay put.

This comes in the run up to the council in Oakland voting on a proposed term sheet for a $1.3billion dollar stadium, an agreement which would put the Oakland area in a strong position to retain the team if it should pass. A day after this vote is scheduled, an NFL meeting is taking place in Dallas to address the issue.

The term sheet from developers outlines the Ronnie Lott group would contribute $400million to the new stadium, but Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has previously stated that there will be no taxes used to raise money for the new stadium (which is understandable after they are still paying off the current one!).

So that begs the question- where is the money going to come from for the stadium in Oakland? The Vegas Raiders have all but financed their new $1.7 billion stadium already, with $750million agreed to be used from public funding and Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson also committing $650million, whilst the remaining $300million would likely come from both the Raiders and the NFL themselves.

Money talks, and right now its screaming Las Vegas.