It’s the NBA’s biggest battle — only off the court.
Nike founder Phil Knight has made a $2 billion bid to buy the Portland Trail Blazers from owner Jody Allen, who has been embroiled in allegations of sexual harassment and bad behavior.
But Allen, 63, who is reportedly worth more than $20 billion, issued a defiant statement Tuesday, saying that she won’t sell the team her brother, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen left her after his 2018 death.
Former Trail Blazers president Larry Miller told The Post Jody is making a mistake: “I would say [to her], absolutely take the offer.”
Sources told The Post, there is growing disarray behind the scenes. A highly placed team staffer alleged that Jody’s “toxic behavior” — dating back to allegations of harassing bodyguards and violating US import laws — has spilled over into the management of the team.
In December 2021, Neil Olshey, President of Basketball Operations, was fired from the Trail Blazers for violating the team’s code of conduct after an investigation revealed a decade of workplace toxicity and sexual harassment.
“Intimidation and profanity-laced tirades” were cited in the investigation among Olshey’s methods of management.
“I heard a number of stories about how badly people felt Neil treated them,” Miller told The Post. “It got to a boiling point and it’s something that Jody and Bert should have been well aware of and done something about it.”
In November, Blazers CEO/President Chris McGowan — who also served as CEO of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, the company founded by the Allens — quit after nine years, allegedly because of frustration with Jody and Kolde.
“The Trail Blazers are not as successful as they could have been. Jody is deferring everything to Bert, and he is not the right guy for the team,” Miller said.
Kolde was Paul Allen’s college roommate and friend. “He always had these issues that didn’t make sense. Paul would consult [Kolde], but [Paul] would make the decisions,” Miller added. “Jody’s letting Bert make all the decisions now.
According to Miller, Jody even refused to take Knight’s call when the Nike founder, who has an estimated fortune of $54.5 billion, put his initial offer together: “She did not take Phil’s call. She deferred him to Bert.”
She has also refused to talk to Blazers star player Damian Lillard, who reportedly has had issues with the way the team is being run, the team source claimed.
“Damian wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Jody about the team and she didn’t return his call. Then he tried to email her. Eventually she just never responded and put him in touch with Bert,” the source alleged. “When you own a team, there are critical key decisions to make and you should be the one involved in making the decisions.”
Reps for Jody Allen as well as the Portland Trail Blazers did not respond to requests for comment.
Paul Allen left his estate — including the Trail Blazers and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks — to his sister following his death from cancer, at age 65, in October 2018.
Miller, who spent five years with the Trail Blazers, said that Jody has become more involved since her brother’s passing, adding: “When Paul was alive, she hardly came to a game. Now she comes to all the games, she’s visible.”
For years, Jody and Paul had to face accusations of bad behavior. In 2013, the siblings settled with two of their former security chiefs who accused them of smuggling, bribery and sexual harassment.
A settlement was reached in November 2013 before the case went in front of a jury. At least 15 former members of the Allens’ personal security detail brought civil claims against them, with 13 eventually settling out of court.
Former members of the siblings’ security detail, including veterans of elite military units, said in sworn depositions in 2012 that Jody sexually harassed bodyguards and directed them to smuggle animal bones out of Africa and Antarctica. At least two former employees said they heard Jody had smuggled ivory out of Africa in violation of US and international law, though none admitted to actually seeing her do so.
Deposed under oath, Jody and several former security officers invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when asked about smuggling ivory out of Africa and penguin skulls out of Antarctica.
US Department of Agriculture records appeared to confirm at least a piece of the former bodyguards’ story.
In August 2011, inspectors destroyed 72 pounds of giraffe bones belonging to Vulcan, according to a USDA report. The security officers contended that Jody had the bones smuggled out of Botswana in an operation that saw a guide questioned by police and bribes paid.
While under oath, Jody also declined to address allegations that she purchased tight, European-cut swim trunks for the men guarding her and requested they perform a “fashion show.”
Attorneys for the Allens described the allegations as “meritless” while suggesting the former employees were trying to extort money from the Allens.
“The allegations that Jody Allen sexually harassed any of her employees are untrue,” Dave Stewart, general counsel for the Allen’s Vulcan LLC, said at the time, “Neither Paul Allen nor Jody Allen engaged in any illegal activity.” Stewart declined to discuss the settlement at the time, as did Rebecca Roe, a Seattle attorney representing several former employees.
Murray said of the Allen family’s ownership of the team: “It’s time for a change of ownership. Stable, solid good ownership is what leads to winning, you can’t win if you don’t have solid consistent reliable ownership. Portland has definitely not had that since Paul passed.”
“The issue is that Bert doesn’t want to sell, he will drag this out as long as possible.”
Even though the Allen trust specified that Jody should sell the Trail Blazers, multiple reports have claimed that she is unwilling to give the team up.
Earlier this month, a Blazers spokesperson confirmed that the Paul G. Allen Trust was “not interested in parting with the team,” following the bid from Knight along with Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky, adding the franchise was “not for sale.”
But, Jody noted in her statement this week, “A time will come when that changes given Paul’s plan to dedicated the vast majority of his wealth to philanthropy, but estates of this size and complexity can take 10 to 20 years to wind down.”