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Seattle Seahawks sale: Evaluating potential cost, candidates and future

Matt Johnson
Seattle Seahawks, Seahawks sale
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Allen bought the Seattle Seahawks for $194 million in 1997, keeping the NFL franchise in Washington and later helping shape one of the best teams in the NFL. Years after his death, the Seahawks could be the next NFL team for sale.

There is an ongoing bidding war for the Denver Broncos with the final purchase price expected to reach $5 billion. It comes months after a Denver district judge removed the final legal hurdles to clear the way for the Pat D. Bowlen Trust to sell the team three years after Bowlen died.

Allen died on Oct. 15, 2018, passing away at age 65 from cancer. Allen’s sister, Jody Allen took over as team chair and has held that title ever since. She also oversees operations for Portland’s NBA team.

With the Portland Trail Blazers expected to be sold within the next 18 months, let’s examine the future of the Seattle Seahawks.

Will the Seattle Seahawks be sold?

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers
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The Seahawks won’t be sold immediately. As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times detailed the situation, reporting there are no current plans to sell Seattle’s NFL franchise. It comes after Portland’s John Canzano reported that the Paul G. Allen Trust instructs his assets, including the Seahawks and Trail Blazers, to be sold as part of his will.

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While a potential bidding war or even a potential exploratory search isn’t imminent, Condotta’s story does note that Jody Allen is overseeing the sale of many of the family’s top assets. Among them per the Los Angeles Times, 120 acres of land on Beverly Crest sold for $65 million in January.

When Paul Allen passed away, he left an estate with an estimated value of $26 billion that many anticipated would take years to sell off individually. However, the will reportedly made it clear those assets needed to be sold with the money going towards his “passion projects” including support for cancer research.

The Seahawks likely won’t be sold within the next two years, but multiple reports make it clear that it is a distinct possibility with more time. It feels even more likely when considering the potential money that could be made from selling the franchise.

Estimating a Seattle Seahawks sale price

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When Forbes estimated NFL franchise values in 2021, the Seahawks came in 12th just behind the Broncos ($3.75 billion) and Houston Texans ($3.7 billion). While the Russell Wilson trade might be a slight hit to a 2022 franchise valuation, skyrocketing NFL revenue has a far bigger influence. Of course, there are additional factors at play.

  • Seattle Seahawks franchise value (2021): $3.5 billion

Lumen Field opened in 2002 and while there are plenty of newer stadiums in the NFL, it’s still considered to be one of the best places to watch pro football.

While the Seattle population dipped in 2021 with more people working from home, it has steadily climbed over the last decade. The average income of the city is also skyrocketing, eclipsing $100,000 in 2020. As of last year, it is also the 12th-largest media market in the United States.

All of this already bodes well for potential buyers interested in buying the Seahawks, with billionaires interested in owning an NFL team in a big market with a strong fan base. Even more important is the NFL revenue being generated on a yearly basis.

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Between TV rights deals with Amazon, Fox, CBS, Disney and NBC, the NFL will receive more than $100 billion over the next 10 years. The league is also negotiating a new deal for the streaming rights to NFL Sunday Ticket with a huge price tag and partnerships with sportsbooks will be worth billions of dollars in the next decade.

Based on all of this and the potential candidates who would want to buy the next NFL team that becomes available, the Seahawks could realistically sell for $5 billion if put up for bidding in the next five years.

Candidates to buy the Seattle Seahawks

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If the Paul Allen Trust puts the Seattle Seahawks up for sale, there will be an overwhelming number of groups and individuals interested in the franchise. Not only will there be interest from groups who lost out on the Broncos, but there will be additional candidates thanks to the team’s location.

  • Bill Gates: It wouldn’t come as a major surprise if Gates pursued the Seahawks if they became available. A Seattle native with a net worth exceeding $120 billion, he roots for the Seahawks and might view this as the one sports team worth buying. Perhaps he could team up with Peyton Manning to run football operations.
  • Steve Ballmer: After purchasing the Los Angeles Clippers, the former Microsoft CEO could turn his focus to landing an NFL team. It would be the perfect opportunity for an eccentric billionaire to really make his market, especially in a league with personalities like Jerry Jones. Ballmer was once a guest at Seahawks’ practice and could be an ideal candidate to buy the team if it becomes available.
  • MacKenzie Scott: The ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, Scott currently lives in Seattle and has spent recent years focused on giving much of her fortune to charitable efforts. With an estimated net worth of $33 billion, she could keep the Seahawks in Seattle and still pursue her philanthropic goals.
  • Jeff Bezos: It’s become pretty clear in recent years that Bezos wants to own an NFL team, he’s just waiting for the right one to become available. While the Washington Commanders seem like his ideal target, Daniel Snyder won’t sell the team unless the NFL forces his hand. If the Seahawks are put up for bid, it might finally be the right fit and best chance for Bezos to become an NFL owner.
  • Robert F. Smith – The NFL pushed for Smith to get involved in the Broncos’ bidding war. The league wants its first Black majority owner and Smith would represent everything the league wants from its next team owner. However, mixed reports of his interest in the Broncos wouldn’t bode well for a pursuit of the Seahawks.