Sorry for posting this so late. After I wrote my article, at Starbucks of course, I had lunch and went to see Inception with my wife. Somehow, after talking with Peter Guber, new co-owner of the Warriors, I had a craving to go watch a film.
I had a good conversation with Guber, who – much like his partner Joseph Lacob – got back to me practically right away. He sounds like you’d expect a Hollywood producer to sound – quick tongue, modern lingo, emotive tone. Not surprising that a guy with such an extensive resume in film production uses movies as points of reference.
Three things I walked away thinking: he’s passionate about this, he is going to be hands-on in making sure this venture doesn’t fail, and – though they’re not saying – they have a strong idea of how they are going to proceed.
So what is it like the day after such a landmark victory?
Ever go out and have a party, and the next day you can’t even remember who you danced with? And you hope you didn’t do anything stupid?”
We’ve got a lot of work to do. This isn’t the end. This isn’t even the end of the beginning. This is the beginning of the beginning. I’ve been in this business for a long time. I kind of measure it as driving with one foot on the break and one foot on the gas.
There are different ownership styles, from Mark Cuban to Chris Cohan. Which will you take on?
I’ve made enormous numbers of televisions and movies. Some in which I have a great deal of visibility, some in which I was in the background. All of them have been my children and I worked on them ferociously.
We have an enormous investment. The kind of signature city, team, sport – it is a lightning rod and a beacon. You have to be able to manage the light and the heat. I’ve learned to do that as a benefit and a burden.
I have a partner that is very knowledgeable about the area, community, team, sport, which gives me a benefit. That partnership allows us to bring a whole different set of skills. We each bring benefits to it.
What is your vision for the Warriors?
The idea is, I think, that it’s about audience. It’s about story. It’s about winning. It’s about fan relationship. It’s about a lot of things. You have to be competitive. You have to be innovative. You have to be inspiring, not just perspiring.
After all it’s a sport and you’ve got to win, but you have to put buts in the seats, and you have to know who your audience is, and you have to understand the relationship between the fans and the team. All those touchstones matter.
If you don’t touch the cloth, if you don’t touch the audience, if you don’t understand the story that is being told, your opinions are much less valuable. I do a lot of business in the Bay Area. And they play several games in LA and Phoenix. I will have a lot of opportunities to be with the people.
How will your background benefit you as a pro sports owner?
This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been around the horn a few times. We own several minor league baseball teams. I tried to buy the Lakers when I was with Sony. I don’t know how long you’ve been around, but a few years ago we were trying to buy the A’s. We owned a hockey team in Vegas, so we have experience in losing. We lost every year. I’ve been at that 13. 14 years. I’ve been around it quite a bit.
I’ve made several sports movies. We did Rudy. We did League of their Own. We’ve done wrestling movies – Vision Quest. We’ve done hockey movies – Youngblood. We’ve done every kind of sports movie. I’m a big sports movie fan, too. When I was after the movie The Blind Side, I called Billy Beane. I was involved with Billy Beane on the A’s sale and Micahel Lewis did Moneyball on Billy so I asked Billy to pull a string with Michael Lewis (author of The Blind Side novel)?
I have a background that I think will be very useful.
Is there a plan in place, ready to go as soon as you two are approved?
I think the plan is based upon intuition. It is based upon interaction. It is based upon the marketplace, based upon what is needed. But it’s not fire, ready, aim. It’s ready, aim, fire.
Which is the tougher industry, sports or the movie business?
Each of them has demons. With the movie business, the television business, you get one pitch. Imagine if a pitcher just got one pitch, as a player you got one shot. With movies you get one shot to nail it.
And you’ve never heard anyone say, ‘We’re going to the movies. Warner Bros. has a new film out.’ People go to see the movie. The brand is the movie itself. In sports, it’s different. But, at the same time, you’re rendering an experience.
Were you impressed with the business end of the Warriors, which is reputed for being surprisingly productive considering on-court failures?
That is a correct assessment. But, the status quo and the way it is, is never good enough. We have to be – as owners, as managers, as stewards of this franchise – we have to be better than that. We have to be constantly improving. We have to strive to be for excellence and challenge the incumbent. And the incumbent is our lethargy or our willingness to get comfortable.
Many fans wanted Larry Ellison to own the team. Do you feel like you can live up to the fans desires?
I have no idea the job he would’ve done. I am challenged by the job we have to do. The idea is we have the job, and we have to be up to it. We have to focus with two eyes on the front, not what would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, might’ve been.
And the reality is he lives in the that community. His company’s name is as sponsorship on the building. Hopefully we’ll have a good relationship with him, too. I’ve met him before while I was CEO of Sony and he was always impressive. I respect his market, his intelligence, his expertise. I think that we have to be the fact – Joe and I and people who are involved and invested in the community and the team – have to be willing to just move forward now. That’s really the issue. I can’t get into the mind of what somebody else might have done, or what somebody in the community would’ve thought about somebody I hardly know. I have all I can do, and I think Joe has all he can do, and we as our team have all we can do to do the job in front of us.
Are there changes you see that need to be made immediately?
One of the things I was made aware of by the media is that the current ownership had – let me put it this way –a less-than-a-strong dialogue with the media.
We have to understand that the media is not our adversary. They have a story to tell and a role to play and a job to do and they want to see the team succeed and they have to report and talk daily about what their point of view is. We have to respect their role in the circle and that’s what we intend to do. And I certainly have experience in that. Big time.
Will you bring some Hollywood luster to the organization like Baron Davis did?
I knew Baron when he was at Crossroads. He was always that guy. I think that’s great. Teams need that all the way up and down the food chain. But you know, I have a partner in several businesses, Magic Johnson. … My view is that you can’t have the shine unless there is substance, know what I mean? You’ve got to show up. You’ve got to have your feet, tongue, heart and wallet all going in the same direction. The key is you have to tell the right story to the right audience consistently over time in the right way. And Magic did it with performance and he did it with his tongue. When you do that, I think you have a chance to be successful on all fronts.
I think that the idea of bringing entertainment value, to improve the shine, to any asset is always a benefit. I really, really, do think that’s an important component today because these teams are an entertainment sport with 17, 18, 19,000 people live there. You have the media reporting about it all the time, you have it on television. So how you can not think it should be compelling and entertainment. Winning is the center of it, but winning inside the context of providing fan experience and entertainment I think is crucial, too.
What is the percentage breakdown of ownership?
Well, Joe Lacob, my partner, it’s just the two of us at this moment. Just the two of us. We put our money, and our effort, reputation, time, energy, resources into it. Whoever else comes aboard will be a matter of what we want, when we want and how we want it, and what, of course, they want, I can’t answer that question any better than that.
Who will run the team?
We’re partners. We’re partners in the business. If there are issues that he has more expertise in, of course that will be what we lean on. The issues that I have more expertise on, we will lean on that. The methodology of all that is what we’ll be going through in the ensuing weeks. Right now, we’re in deal mode. I don’t mean that in a positive or negative way. But you can imagine what it took to get this transaction off the ground, know what I mean.