Seattle Super Bowl Scores Points for Paul Allen, Sacks Howard Schultz
PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- The difference between Paul Allen and Howard Schultz is the difference between the Seattle Seahawks playing in their second Super Bowl and the Seattle SuperSonics playing their sixth season in Oklahoma City as the Thunder.
Both Allen and Schultz built their respective empires in the Seattle area, but there's a reason one is seen as a benevolent oligarch and the other still hasn't been forgiven by the city's sports fans. Allen began building his $15 billion fortune as co-founder of Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., while Schultz stuffed his $1.6 billion coffers during his tenure as chief executive of Seattle's own Starbucks. In 1997, Allen took $194 million of that fortune and purchased the Seahawks from previous owner Ken Behring, who had threatened to move the team to Southern California.
Allen argued that the Seahawks would never be profitable in the 21-year-old Kingdome, but had to pay $130 million and cover potential cost overruns just to secure an extremely close vote on $300 million in public financing. The Seahawks not only got their new echo chamber of a stadium, but got former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren to lead the team in 2009. The combination, plus an influx of talent including NFL MVP running back Shaun Alexander and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, led the franchise to its first Super Bowl appearance in 2005.
Just around that time, Schultz was nearing the end of his tenure as the Sonics' owner. The team struggled mightily under his tenure, trading away All-Star and face of the franchise Gary Payton during the 2002-03 season after a feud with Schultz (who Payton still loathes for making him leave Seattle) and making the playoffs exactly once: During a Ray Allen/Rashard Lewis-driven run in 2004-05 that would be the franchise's last playoff appearance as the Sonics. Viewed as a miserly business man with woefully little sports acumen -- a depiction not helped by former Sonics employees' takes of trophy scrubbing and $3.50 Starbucks' gift cards and only bolstered by the franchise's postmortem documentary SonicsGate -- Schultz was already less than popular among Sonics fans.
When Schultz pressed for tax dollars to update the Sonics' Key Arena, fans scoffed and accused him of being too cheap to field a competitive team, never mind maintain a building. When he sold the team to Oklahoma City businessman Clayton Bennett in 2006 for $350 million, fans had absolutely no faith in his early -- but withdrawn -- lawsuit attempting to prevent the team from moving or the "good-faith best effort" stipulation he'd coaxed out of Bennett in a last-ditch effort to keep the team in Seattle.