In the last week, I've heard of a half-dozen owners whose personal fortunes have been slashed significantly by the recession.
In one case, one employee of a team told me his boss has lost nine figures--more than $100 million--in personal wealth. In another, someone who's never been wrong in 10 years swears that another owner has lost $1 billion since the recession began. (Obviously, as I don't have each team's spreadsheet in front of me, or a month of free time to become an expert on tax shelter/tax write-offs policy, determining exact losses is an impossibility.) But owners aren't immune to the forces that have paralyzed the rest of the American economy.
"I don't think there's an owner in the NBA who hasn't lost money in this recession," one NBA team executive said Monday.
"No question the economy is driving more basketball decisions," another team executive e-mailed. "Would hate to be a team dumping money while trying to remain competitive right now--everyone's trying to do it."
I don't know why it makes any less sense for these guys to be cutting costs just like the owner of any business, but sports payrolls and salaries have largely been immune to economic turmoil as they've gradually and regularly increased over the last several decades. How bad are things when the wealthy owners of NBA franchises, most of whom are driven relentlessly to win, have to think about whether that marquee player-and a shot at a championship-is really worth the cost?