In 2019, rumors swirled that James Dolan was considering putting the New York Knicks up for sale. (Those rumors, amid the expectations of landing Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Zion Williamson, sparked the most exciting time for Knicks fans—of which I am one—in years.)
In addition to owning the Knicks franchise since 1997, Dolan is the CEO and chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company. His properties include the Knicks, New York Rangers, and New York Liberty, along with two regional sports networks and various entertainment venues.
Dolan and Madison Square Garden squashed the speculation at the time. Now, with the Knicks again topping Forbes’ list of most valuable sports franchises ($4.6 billion, pre-pandemic) and the New York Mets facing a welcome ownership change, it got us re-thinking, who should—and could—buy (er, rescue) the Knickerbockers?
Despite the NBA’s revenue losses in the wake of the China and Covid-19 crises, Dolan would assuredly ask for at least $5 billion for his team, meaning it would likely take a top-tiered billionaire or a celebrity-backed investor group to cobble together the funds.
Here are five plausible options—each of whom would represent a marked improvement over Dolan.
No price is too high for the richest man in the world, who’s net worth is approaching $200 billion.
“He was trying to do Amazon (HQ2) in Long Island, went to Virginia, right? So he still wants to do some real estate in New York, why not buy the Garden?” Oakley said.
However, Bezos recently acquired the naming rights to the future home of the NHL’s expansion franchise in Seattle, Washington. The soon-to-be-named “Climate Pledge Arena” will undergo a carbon-friendly renovation.
Bezos clearly has enough coin left over to purchase the Knicks, too, but his investment in Seattle indicates that his NBA-related ambitions may lie in the Pacific Northwest.
You never know, though. Bezos previously worked on Wall Street before founding Amazon, so he definitely still has a few ties to NYC.
The former New York City mayor with a net worth of $60 billion would make a logical candidate to take the reins from Dolan.
The notoriously petty Dolan would possibly hear Bloomberg out, considering a Feb. 2019 article in Bloomberg’s media publication titled “David Stern Says New York Knicks Owner Jim Dolan ‘Gets a Bad Rap’. It’s safe to assume Dolan enjoyed the rare positive press.
Plus, Bloomberg could enjoy limiting the size of sodas during Knicks games at the Garden.
Ellison is the CEO and Founder of Oracle—whose namesake arena in Oakland no longer hosts the Golden State Warriors. Ellison has talked with the NBA about purchasing a team before, so there may be genuine interest.
Ellison’s net worth of $73.7 billion ranks him fifth in the world, so he could easily go the Steve Ballmer route and happily surpass any asking price from Dolan in order to secure this major-market franchise.
For what it’s worth, Ellison was born in New York City.
The hedge-fund maestro currently has his sights and bank account set on the Mets, but the founder of Point72 Asset Management carries a net worth valued at $14 billion. So, even if he outbids J.Lo and A-Rod for his beloved baseball team, the Long Island native (and Bobby Axelrod inspiration) could still make a play for the state’s struggling hoops franchise.
Jay-Z and/or Diddy
Jay-Z is worth a solid billion (not including his wife’s earnings), so the Brooklyn native and business titan would likely need to put together a group of investors to join any bid.
Diddy, with an estimated net worth around $820 million, would have to go the same route. Sean Combs has publicly expressed his desire to own the Knicks in the past, and he openly vied for a stake in the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in 2017.
Jay-Z has recent experience in NBA ownership circles from his time as a minority shareholder and public face of the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets.
Assuming the rap legends did round up the money—separately or in partnership—New Yorkers will unanimously rejoice that the franchise would fall into the hands of these NYC icons. Beyond their spectacular track records running businesses, the moguls would bring a level of cultural cachet that the franchise’s brand has sorely lacked.
But in all honesty, anyone would be better than James Dolan at this point.