Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Schultz tries to foster Seattle's fortunes, too

You’d think Howard Schultz would be jittery enough without a court battle on his hands. But the Starbucks CEO filed a lawsuit Tuesday against fellow tycoon Clayton Bennett to scuttle their Seattle SuperSonics deal. Schultz agreed in 2006 to sell the pro basketball team for $350 million to a group led by the Oklahoma City financier. But when Seattle balked at building a new arena for the Sonics, Bennett alerted the National Basketball Association that he was relocating the franchise to his home town. Seattle restaurants of all stripes—including a few, presumably, in Starbucks green—have warned that the relocation would starve them of much-needed nighttime business.

Schultz may have grown up in Brooklyn, N.Y., but he’s loyal to his adopted hometown. He’s asked a U.S. District Court to un-do the deal because it was based on the assumption that the Sonics would remain in Starbucks’ home base. The team would still be sold, the complaint reportedly states. But Schultz would like to find an “honest buyer” who’d keep the Sonics in the only city the team has ever known, the Associated Press reported this morning.

Bennett, meanwhile, could end up as the trial lawyers’ poster child of 2008. He’s also being sued by the city of Seattle and fans who bought season tickets to the Sonics for future years.

Bennett has already agreed to give up the Seattle SuperSonics name, clearing the way for Seattle to secure another franchise. But he seems to be proceeding with his relocation plan. The NBA gave him a green light Friday to make the move, pending the outcome of his court fight with Seattle.


  1. Howard Schultz is an absolute idiot. How in the world could he really think that selling the Sonics to a buyer who is not from the area is a good thing? Seattle is one of the best basketball markets bar none. They eat and breathe basketball there. Also, David Stern would be just as stupid if he allowed this to happen. Or even worse, if the NBA would allow the team to leave and then grant an expansion team, a la, the Cleveland Browns. This whole thing has made me give up drinking at the 'Buck.

  2. Food for thought. Before we call Howard Schultz an idiot, maybe we should consider Howard has a hidden agenda here. By engaging in a court battle that will generate press coverage he will inadvertently create some “buzz marketing.” Another way for Starbucks to augment its overall marketing campaign/brand awareness as an element of their turnaround strategy. Let’s not forget the positive spin Ralph Lauren generated thanks to the negative press he received for his use of nude models in his advertising campaign.

  3. Correction to the comment I posted 4/24. I meant to reference Calvin Klein, not Ralph Lauren.