Warriors co-owner Peter Guber went on The Drive yesterday, and the 20-minute interview that came out of it was the most entertaining bit of owner-speak I’ve heard in a long time. Guber is not like most co-owners, sitting in silence. He’s a Hollywood producer with showmanship befitting the town. A big-money player may work as the managing partner, whereas Guber appears to have a running mate-like role, selling the team’s concepts and working over the media. Joe Lacob, like Lew Wolff, has had some difficulty establishing a rapport with the local media and fans. For Guber this is old hat. However, Guber is taking on a similar role with the Dodgers, one that will take just as much effort if not more, so I can see why he wouldn’t be a managing partner of any one team.
Guber explained the process of selecting a San Francisco site, why Oakland was passed over (which will fall on deaf ears in the East Bay, I figure) and his history of ownership stints dating back to Mandalay Sports Entertainment, a conglomerate of minor league franchises including the model minor league team, the Dayton Dragons. Curiously, he considered the Warriors the only Northern California NBA franchise, a clear indicator that the Maloof family is more than one-foot-out-the-door in Sacramento. He even got in a little shot at the Maloofs:
GUBER: We believe – it’s a belief – that we’re going to turn it [the arena] into reality. We believe we can accomplish it. If we didn’t believe it, why would I take the energy and resources in the third act of my life and put it into something I thought was folly? No. All of us believe – Joe [Lacob], the different owners of the group, there’s a large group of intelligent owners – believe this is a beautiful, successful endeavor that we can bring to fruition. If we didn’t, I would go play poker in Las Vegas.
TIERNEY: Which casino by the way?
GUBER: Let me put it this way. Not. The Palms.
Guber went on to talk about how Larry Baer brought the Lacob-Guber team in to buy the Warriors. Guber indicated that Baer could have ended up as part of the ownership group, but dropped out during the process.
GUBER: When Larry Baer – yes, Larry Baer – called me at home in Los Angeles and said, “How would you like to buy the Warriors?” I said, “Great!” It fit my compass. I wanted to be able to get to a place within an hour, that I could go there regularly and be part of the community. Before, I had worked with Bob Piccinini to buy the Oakland A’s. In fact, closed the deal, made the deal with Billy Beane at my house, gave him a piece of the equity, negotiated the whole thing. Then, lo and behold, Bud Selig said “we’re going to do contractions” back in 2002 or 2004. “Let’s do contraction!” You know what contraction is? Not the same as what women have before they have a baby. This is what the league said they wanted to do with the teams. They wanted to get rid of Oakland and Minnesota. Ultimately, they made a deal with Lew Wolff about a year later. My partner (Lacob) went after that team as well. So Larry Baer said, “Let’s try to get the Warriors.” We went after the Warriors. Larry dropped out. Joe and I teamed up to buy the Warriors.
There’s a problem in Guber’s timeline. The contraction threat came with the 2002 CBA negotiations, which were the greatest threat for a work-stoppage since 1994-95. Contraction talk had started in 1999, and dragged on contentiously until August 30, 2002, when a deal was put in place that pushed out the contraction threat to 2006. The 2006 deadline passed without a peep, and contraction hasn’t come up in any substantive discussions since. The new CBA, which was finally made publicly available today, has language that the league won’t talk contraction until after the CBA expires in 2016. I digress.
Again, Guber talked 2002. But the Dolich-Piccinini group was knocked out in 1999, not 2002, a fact confirmed by Piccinini himself. Either the group was kept in play until 2002 as Guber said, or he has his dates mixed up. Piccinini is now also a part of the Warriors’ ownership group. He was also part of Jeff Moorad’s failed bid to buy the Padres. From the looks of things, Larry Baer was very active in getting the group as far away from the A’s as possible. Contraction died, which foiled the Giants’ attempt to get rid of the A’s via subterfuge. Now there’s simply no economic justification for it, and the price to contract two teams (estimated $1 billion) is too high for the owners and MLB to swallow.
The only question I have coming out of this is one I’ve had for the last few weeks: Why on earth is the City of Oakland working with the Giants and Larry Baer? Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said yesterday that he is looking at the A’s situation closely, with Sacramento potentially there if something can’t be done in the Bay Area. Guess who’d love it if the A’s had no choice but to leave the Bay Area? Larry Baer.
Update 8:47 PM – Guber was referring to the “secret” 2001-02 negotiations done by his group, Mandalay, and Steve Schott. The group also included Bob Piccinini, which I was not aware of until the interview. At the time, Schott was pushing for a move to Santa Clara and was in discussions with the City Council. Because of the sale talks, the Council felt betrayed and terminated any further pre-development work. The ownership would have included, among others: Guber, Piccinini, Paul Schaeffer (Mandalay VP), and Billy Beane. It’s difficult to keep these ownership groups straight.