“To me, today is the first day of our lives together as partners. I would encourage everyone to take a deep breath and be happy. This is the fun part of the process now. I sense everyone wringing their hands and being nervous and I think they need to calm down and enjoy the ride. Because the ride is going to get interesting and its going to get fun.”
- Tim Leiwke to fans Dec 6, 2017
One of the most amazing things about sports is that feeling you get when you can see a play coming together.
We all know what it’s like to be part of an audience that collectively senses it’s a touchdown the moment the ball leaves the QB’s hands. We’ve felt the thrill of anticipation when kick return coverage just lines up in a way that we can see the run back before it happens, or felt unstoppable momentum build as a defense clamps down for a series of plays, forcing the complete breakdown of their opposition in a way that is only going to end with a dominant dunk and emergency time out.
Sometimes the feeling takes place over months instead of milliseconds. A coach or GM arrives who fits the situation and ties all the other pieces of the franchise together. The core of the team buys into a system and suddenly everything that can go seems to be going right (kind of the opposite of our last 10 years). When this happens nobody wants to jinx it but we all share a feeling like this team could “do something really special.”
Sharing a stake in the outcome is what makes sports so special. When we see good things emerging and cheer for our team or player to deliver it makes us invested in a way that distracts from the day to day hardships of life.
I struggle to feel that joy because, in the decade since the Sonics left my relationship with sports (and the NBA in particular) has become somewhat damaged. Consistent letdowns have left me numb and skeptical. I have detached myself from all the outcomes around the Sonics franchise, coming to terms with the concept that most things are out of my control and a more professional, less emotional approach is best path forward until we get a franchise back.
But as a fan of business I’m starting to find that same kind of joy again watching OVG’s massive undertaking play out here in Seattle. I’m on the edge of my seat because I can see Tim Leiweke’s plan coming together. It is massive, inspiring, groundbreaking and has me cheering whenever new details emerge.
OVG’s corporate motto is to be a “positive disruption” to the industries of sports and live entertainment. They and others see this industry, already valued at more than $2 TRILLION per year as exploding in size due to expanding revenue opportunities, an increased global customer base and emerging technology options for entertainment content distribution.
They aren’t screwing around and seem pretty aware it is not possible to “disrupt” an industry so large without assembling a mighty team and executing a massive plan. By adding names like (Tim’s brother) Tod Lieweke, Silver Lake Equity ($39B in assets managed) and potentially the sports industries most coveted corporate partner to an already stacked roster they are demanding attention from the leagues, sponsors, content creators, tech innovators, equity partners and audiences that will be necessary to make an impact that defies the status quo and is truly disruptive at the scale they are aspiring to.
In recent weeks I’ve written a half dozen articles trying to explain the immense scale, details and nuances of this undertaking. One, titled “Tim Leiweke’s Irresistible Deal” explains how special this opportunity must be to attract the level of talent, equity and participation already publicly identified and speculates how even more sizeable partners may emerge. Another, “Our Partnership with OVG”, discusses how making this whole ride fun for the fans again makes great business sense and the creates the sense of momentum necessary to attract additional influential supporters like Rick Weltz and Kevin Durant. “Pay Attention to the Victory Lap” highlights how important the resulting coverage has been to our cause of elevating Seattle’s profile and attracting an NBA franchise.
Each of these stories, along with several others come to the conclusion that there is a plan in motion and if successful that plan will make Seattle so influential in the realm of sports and entertainment that the NBA will want to be here and find a way to make the numbers work.
“Let’s just say we get an NHL team first. And let’s say we knock it out of the park with the NHL, sell out every game, maximize revenue, and have a great five year run with the NHL. Why do people not believe, understand, or think that that will ultimately catch the attention of the NBA?”
- Tim Leiweke
For the moment I’ve decided that nobody needs a bunch of wonky, detailed explanations from me or anyone else right as we are in the middle of the play developing. As a fan I feel better served just taking the moment to sit back and watch it all unfold. I’m savoring the NHL’s arrival and having a great time watching this unprecedented transaction come together right before our eyes. I really think there is the potential for this team to do something special.
Just because I don’t think you need me lecturing about all the inside baseball and political/business intrigue doesn’t mean I think you should turn away. If you are not paying attention to this play as it develops I encourage you to do so. Take the time to read the links embedded in this article or Google the Oak View Group and read the national coverage of what they are doing here in Seattle and globally. Think about how these headlines will be interpreted by people outside the region, including league commissioners and NBA owners.
It is a lot of fun to watch and we all have a lot at stake because, if successful, the sheer enormity (and ultimately the profitability) of what is happening with OVG, centered in Seattle, will be impossible for the NBA to ignore.
No one will ever do what we’re trying to pull off here again and certainly its nothing I’ve ever done before. So all of my past, all of my experience, all of my contacts, all of my relationships have led me to this point and for my career I think it’s my shining moment and so it’s my highest priority. “
- Tim Leiweke
Winter is coming and a Sonics spring will follow!