In the wake of the National Football League’s 31-to-1 vote to allow the Oakland Raiders to start the relocation process to Las Vegas, there are still many, many questions left to be answered. In today’s sports media environment, people seem less interested in investigative details than in reciting the outcome as if it were a final score.
But the reality, especially for the Oakland Raiders, the City of Oakland, Alameda County, and the related government organizations, and Oaklanders and Raider Nation, is that the details matter, because they form where these relationships are going in the future.
Consider that the Raiders and the NFL are still in Oakland, and by all accounts, may be here right up to the 2020 NFL Season. Indeed, the Raiders Manager of the General Partner has expressed the desire to stay in Oakland (the now familiar refrain) for the next three years “if Oakland will have us.”
Mr. Davis comment “if Oakland will have us” made me go back and review all of the communications I have received from a number of parties in an effort to determine what really happened.
I have been able to pin down two key moments in time in the range of events leading up to the 2017 NFL Annual Meeting.
The first was when Mayor Schaaf informed me that she would love to support Ronnie Lott’s then new effort to retain the Raiders, thus placing himself in the role of stadium developer, but she told me “I would love for Ronnie and Rodney’s Group to be involved but have promised that the Raiders and NFL lead in the selection of their investment and development partners.”
For me, that news cemented a process of information that started in May of 2015, and where I tried to convince the Mayor to warm to the idea of allowing the NFL to have the control over the Coliseum land that it sought. That was especially desirable since many people have wanted the Oakland A’s to have a new, state-of-the-art stadium at Howard Terminal, on Oakland’s Waterfront, and next to Jack London Square.
But I digress.
That was May 23rd, 2016, and happened while I was attending the 2016 Charlotte NFL Owners Spring Meeting. Yes, the same one where NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the Raiders shared some blame for not having a stadium in Oakland.
For a few months after that exchange, it seemed Ronnie Lott had gotten his approval from Commissioner Goodell, but the official approval from the Raiders and Mark Davis never came.
In hindsight, it may be that was because Davis had made his so-called “promise” to Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to move the Raiders, but the fact is that, at that time, it was still early in a chain of events that moved at what has been break-neck speed.
Consider that the 2016 NFL Owners Spring League Meeting was just within a month after Davis made his first appearance at the meetings of the Southern Nevada Tourism and Infrastructure Committee (SNTIC) – April 28th, 2016. The 2016 NFL Spring League Meeting was a year ago, almost to the day, this week. Moreover, Davis had started his Las Vegas moves as far back as January, 2016 according to this posting by Aubrey Clerkin then of News3TV Las Vegas, and talked about here at Zennie62 on YouTube:
(I also don’t believe that Davis is working the relocation angle because of some promise made to Governor Sandoval. It’s more than that, and given that this affair looks very much like Art Modell taking the Browns out of Cleveland because of his financial problems, I’m starting to wonder how much money Davis was given in advance by some party in Nevada to help make the move happen? Davis and the Raiders have sought to sell part of the team in exchange for cash. Could Sheldon Adelson have invested more up front money in the Raiders than we are aware of? Was that part of the money later used to purchase the Russell Road property?)
Fortress Investments was not even in the loop at that point, but a gentleman named Egbert Perry, the Atlanta-based Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Integral Group LLC, was. Interestingly, while the mainstream media placed Lott and Perry together, the fact is they never had one corporate entity, no limited liability corporation, that showed they were really in the Raiders NFL effort together.
Whatever happened between May 23rd and September 17th of 2017, Mr. Perry attempted to purchase the entire Coliseum property with his own group, not with Lott. It’s hard, at this point, to get anyone to talk about how this came about, but the action was a direct slap in the face of the idea that Lott and Perry were working together. The offer was never accepted by Mayor Schaaf or Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid.
Just as Perry was out, it seemed Oakland had no investment bank or financial group to work with, even as I had personally worked to bring Piper Jaffrey Investment Bankers, and its Managing Director Diane Paauwe to the attention and contact with Mayor Schaaf the previous year.
This still sticks in my craw and will for some time. It was far more than a casual talk – Piper Jaffrey and I exchanged several calls and emails, a conference call where I presented a detailed spreadsheet plan for financing a stadium for both the Raiders and the A’s, and follow-up contacts. Piper Jaffrey has done scores of stadium deals, even beyond what Fortress Investments had done.
Yet, with all that, Reid worked to get Fortress Investments involved, and not Piper Jaffrey. What bothers me about that part of the deal is I told Reid that Mark Davis had asked me to form a plan in 2015.- that talk was while we were at the giant Warriors NBA Finals celebration. Reid openly laughed at me. I’m not kidding. This, the same person who was the chairman of my Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission in 1999 through 2000. But as I recall that episode, perhaps I should not have been surprised.
It was Councilmember Reid who voted to abstain from allowing my created-from-scratch sports commission to enter a contract with the NFL to use the Coliseum grounds for our Super Bowl XXXIX Bid.
And I remember the date he did it, too: Friday, October 20th, 2000, at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority meeting. I felt like Larry stabbed me in the back and with a very deep knife, failed to support a hard-working young black Oakland official who was on the cusp of doing what others said was impossible – so maybe I should not have been surprised later in life.
But I was, and I digress, once again.
The rise of Fortress Investments into the Oakland Raiders Stadium Affair, came almost at the same time, and certainly on the same month, as the Nevada Legislature was strongarmed by Adelson’s lobbyists into approving the Southern Nevada Tourism Improvements Act (SNTIA) and the infamous $750 million stadium subsidy.
I now go back to Mayor Schaaf’s statement to me: “I would love for Ronnie and Rodney’s Group to be involved but have promised that the Raiders and NFL lead in the selection of their investment and development partners.” Now, it’s clear that she did not do that, and in the process, with the Raiders now having the first major part of their Las Vegas deal done, were in a position to subordinate Mayor Schaaf’s efforts, especially since the NFL did not have it’s preferred investment and development partners involved.
Fortress certainly had and has the capacity to build the stadium, but they don’t have the overall track record of Piper Jaffrey or Goldman Sachs, or Bank of America. Yet, and for reasons not clear, Fortress emerged.
Nothing against Fortress, which now has the exclusive negotiating agreement to build Coliseum City, still. But the question is, why did Mayor Schaaf not work closely and directly with the NFL, and in particular NFL Senior Vice President Eric Grubman in picking an investment and development partner? NFL Ventures controls a multi-billion war chest of money that it could bear, in part, on the Oakland situation.
Whatever the answer it, it’s clear to me that determining it will give us the key to how the next process of events leading to the 2017 NFL Annual Meeting vote for the Raiders to Las Vegas happened.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Oakland faces another situation where the Oakland A’s are being allowed to determine the fate of land use in Oakland, rather than Oakland making a plan for the Oakland A’s to have a stadium in its desired location, Howard Terminal.
This is a power issue: former California Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown would have never stood for such behavior on the part of the Athletics, and would have engineered a path for them to be at Howard Terminal. Or else.
In San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee directed the Golden State Warriors to Pier 32 but could not make the plan work in the face of opposition. SalesForce Founder and CEO Marc Benioff stepped in with a land offer to Warriors Owner Joe LaCob, and now Marc Benioff owes Oakland a sports team.
A Mayor of Oakland should do what the Mayors of San Francisco, Brown and Lee, have done.