March 22, 2010

The Golden State Warriors have retained Galatioto Sports Partners to sell the franchise, the team announced in a press release this morning.

Warriors owner Chris Cohan has long been rumored to be selling the embattled franchise, which has had only one playoff appearance in the last 15 years.

But this is the first time he has officially placed the team on the open market. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has already said he's interested in purchasing the franchise but recently told shareholders he was doing everything he could to purchase the team but could not perform a "hostile takeover."

Meanwhile, Hall of Famer Jerry West has strongly refuted a rumor that he has been retained by Ellison as a consultant to help run the Warriors if he does buy it.

"That is completely false. I haven't talked to Larry for a number of years," West told a few days before the Warriors made their announcement.

However, while West did not completely rule out running an NBA team again, he did rule out taking over the Warriors, as well as the notion that he's in the market for another job.

"There is one owner of that team: Chris Cohan," West said. "Everyone says this team is for sale. I always hear rumors. I have no clue. People just throw things out there. I am not in the loop in the NBA. For the most part, I sit back and watch the game from a distance. I watch the teams who are sliding. I look at places where there are opportunities to make enormous headway."

That would be the definition of Golden State, which, under the direction of coach Don Nelson, has completely dismantled the team that defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs in 2007.

The Warriors declined to comment further on the sale until it is complete. GSP, a sports advisory and finance firm that represented Bob Johnson in his sale of the Bobcats to Michael Jordan, also declined to comment.

The offering comes at an interesting time for the NBA, which has one more season on its collective bargaining agreement before what could be an ugly, protracted lockout.

NBA commissioner David Stern said at the All-Star Game that league's losses could reach $400 million this season -- a figure that recently was disputed by union head Billy Hunter.

The Bobcats were just sold to Jordan for $275 million, $25 million less than what previous owner Johnson paid for it. And the New Jersey Nets are about to be sold to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

Ellison has long been rumored to be the next owner of the franchise. If Cohan wanted to sell, it seemed he could have picked up the phone and offered the team to Ellison.

Cohan, who has financial issues relating to back taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service, is trying to drive up the sales price by getting multiple bidders.

No matter who ends up purchasing the team, it appears the team will stay in the Bay Area market. According to the Sports Business Journal, the Warriors have a lease with Oracle Arena through 2016-17, and are required to pay a base rent of $1.5 million and $700,000 a year from the team's 10-year, $30 million naming rights deal with Oracle.

The Bay Area remains one of the league's strongest markets, as shown by the near-15,000 fans who regularly show up to cheer on a team that has only 19 victories this season.

West has a home in Los Angeles and another in Greenbrier, W. Va. His son, Jonnie, plays for West's alma mater, West Virginia University, which just made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament under Bob Huggins. West said he is torn between wanting to accept the challenge of rebuilding another franchise and doing what is right for him and his family.

"As far as getting involved, it would have to be a unique opportunity for me in wanting to do it," West said. "I know what it takes to be successful. You can't have one foot in and one foot out. I don't want to change that, to be honest.

"Life is about challenges. If you have the right challenge in front of you, those are the things that motivate me. I don't do things for money. Period. Never have. Never will. I do things because I am committed.

I am not seeking a job. I am not looking for a job. I am not a teenager any more. I have been blessed with great energy. I know what is good for me and what is not good for me. I know how involved I get, which is not good from a health perspective and not good from a family perspective.

"I have to figure out what to do with my life."

A possibility may have just opened.

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