From hard disks to hard courts — will Larry Ellison become an NBA owner?


What Larry Ellison wants, he usually gets. From businesses by the bushel to the America’s Cup, the billionaire CEO of Oracle is highly persistent in pursuing the things he wants. Now, he could be poised to join the ranks of NBA team owners.

The Golden State Warriors, who play in Oakland’s Oracle Arena, this week stated majority owner Chris Cohan is willing to sell the team he’s owned since 1995. The Warriors retained the firm of Galatioto Sports Partners to conduct the sale.

Just two months ago, Ellison acknowledged that he would like to own the Warriors, so his name quickly came to the forefront as a potential bidder.

The Oracle co-founder may, however, get some competition in bidding for the woeful NBA franchise, which currently is 19-51 and in last place in the Pacific division of the Western Conference.

In 2004 Cohan sold a 20% stake in the Warriors to four Silicon Valley businessmen, including former Flextronics International CEO Michael Marks and Symantec chairman John Thompson (not to be confused with the current coach of the men’s basketball team at Georgetown University, or his father). Two years later Cohan got Oracle to spend $30 million over 10 years on naming rights for the home court of the Warriors. Marks, Thompson, and their partners could lead a bidding group to take over majority ownership of the team.

While the Warriors made a surprising run in the 2007 NBA playoffs, upsetting the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks before falling to the Utah Jazz in the next round, the team hasn’t performed well for most of Cohan’s tenure. The nadir may have been in 1997, when guard Latrell Sprewell choked and struck coach P. J. Carlesimo during a practice. The league suspended “Spre” for 68 games — nearly an entire season — as a result.

Larry Ellison could be joining Michael Jordan (the new majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats), Mark Cuban of the Mavericks, and the other wealthy people who own NBA teams. He should easily fit in with that crowd.

~Photo by Eric Molina, used under a Creative Commons license.

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