Yesterday, Las Vegas casino mogul and civic bigfoot Sheldon Adelson pulled out of the Las Vegas Raiders stadium deal over outward annoyance with the Raiders’ negotiating tactics and inward annoyance over the idea that the Raiders would try to finance without him. Today, he allegedly put in a word with the Goldman Sachs people with whom he does a great deal of business, and they are now apparently pulling out of the deal as well.
So with that as today's blue plate hot mess, the Raiders revert to Oakland, right? Mark Davis’ carefully constructed deal has collapsed in a heap over the risky choice of alienating the most powerful man in the city in which he wishes to reside, see? Happy days in a concrete eyesore are here again?
Well, not so fast.
There are other shoes yet to fall here, and nobody should assume that Adelson and Goldman are the only places in Las Vegas with Scrooge McDuck money. Nor should we assume that it has to be Vegas money at all.
Nor, for that matter, should we assume there is any money anywhere. In short, we should assume nothing at all.
But what we know is potentially damaging to Davis’ ongoing plans to be the owner of the No Longer Oakland Raiders. There have been no new talks, even informal ones, with the Oakland or Alameda County political establishments, let alone the Fortress Group that is contracted to build any new Oakland football stadium, so he is not yet ready to retreat.
And if he isn’t ready to retreat, he must have something else in mind to salvage the Vegas deal – something that Adelson in his jilted ire can’t derail.
And if that is so, the next nut to crack is the oft-reported $650 million that Adelson was allegedly throwing into the alleged $1.9 billion project.
There have always been rumors that the actual cost of the stadium wasn’t $1.9 billion at all, but at least 25 percent lower and maybe more than that. If that is so, the Adelson contribution could have been closer to $200 million, and much more easily replaced, as a number of NFL insiders have said.
The next bit of business would be identifying the new Adelson, and the names that keep coming up are those of the Fertitta brothers, Lorenzo Fertitta, who own Station Casinos and just sold Ultimate Fighting Championships for $4 billion. They have long been believed to be keen on getting into the NFL, and on the assumption that the league is no longer skittish about ownership connections with gaming interests after its long and well-documented ties with gamblers in bygone days, they would have ready investable cash to throw into Davis’ pot.
Which brings us to the back end of this seemingly convoluted scenario – the long-held assumption that league approval for Davis’ move would likely come at the slow but steady loss of his team, where he might have to agree to sell off equity chunks at intermittent times until he no longer reaches the 20 percent ownership threshold for being the official owner for league purposes (he is currently believe to hold a percentage in the low 40s).
That bit of low-hanging meat would intrigue the Fertittas as it intrigued Adelson, and it could intrigue other investors as well.
Throw into the pot the fact that some owners are absolutely hot for Vegas anyway because there is money to be had there, and the even more nagging fact that they still mostly hate the Oakland deal because of the presence of the Fortress Group as the city’s chosen partner for the Coliseum land Davis has been adamant is the only place he would accept, and you have this – a machine that was in the process of being streamlined a week ago but is now taking on new gears and pulleys dumped into the engine and bringing things to yet another seemingly grinding halt.
In other words, everything is exasperatingly in play again – including, by default, Oakland. But there is no evidence of a grand, overarching or even believable plan today. All things are chaos, and all intentions go against the run of play. Vegas was the safe money play and now it isn’t. Oakland was the prohibitive longshot, and now it isn’t.
And nobody in or out of the NFL or Las Vegas knows where this is heading except toward that March 26 owners meeting in Houston, which could result in . . . you guessed it, more helpings of status with a side of quo. Another year of “study,” another year of stasis, another year without any sign of anything other than another year after that.
And maybe in the end, we get the Oakland Raiders – The Team That Even Money Couldn’t Buy.