According to Sal Galatioto, president of Galatioto sports--the firm that brokered the sale of the Warriors--Larry Ellison's bid for the franchise arrived after an agreement had already been put in place with Joe Lacob and his group of investors, the eventual winners of the Warriors bidding process.
This comes via an exclusive interview at Comcast:
Galatioto said he had already reached an agreement in principle with the Guber-Lacob group for $450 million, and that “morally” he couldn’t advise Cohan to accept the higher bid.
“We were moving forward with the high bidder right to the end,” Galatioto said. “I think there’s an Oracle press release saying they were the highest bidder, but they jumped in at the last possible moment with a bid that was … I can’t comment on what it was. But these deals are not just the headline price. We had to get a very clean deal with the group that won and we had a high certainty of close. Nobody gets to take a shot after the clock expires, not even if you’re LeBron James."
“And you know what, the game was over for about three minutes when they took their shot. It doesn’t count.”
So perhaps it was Ellison who dropped the ball, after all. Even if his bid was higher, if it'd come through after the sale had been brokered with a rival group, his public statement looks extremely calculated, and frankly, incomplete. With a few sentences, he's able to render himself like the victim, and reinforce perceptions of Cohan as the crass, incompetent manager that fans have loathed for years in Golden State.
If negotiations had gone sour between Ellison and Cohan, this would certainly have made for an effective way to decline the purchase and stick it to the man who insisted on driving up the purchase price.
But by the same token, one can't help but wonder... If the deal had been done as long as Galatioto says, it's hard to believe that nobody leaked the news until today's official announcement. There were beat writers following this story every single day in the Bay Area, and as late as Thursday morning, the future of the Golden State Warriors was still up in the air.
Mind you, if Ellison's bid was indeed higher (and came before the team had been sold), it reflects poorly on both Galatioto and Cohan to have that news go public. It undermines Cohan's credibility as a businessman and Galatioto's credibility at brokering deals. They'd certainly have incentive to discredit Ellison's claims.
Both sides have ample motives to frame the truth in their own terms. So who do you trust in this case of he-said-she-said?
It's a debate that's sure to rage for at least the next few days, and perhaps much longer. And for a franchise in desperate need for stability, with some of the best fans on earth... Well, this sucks.