I did a long long interview with Warriors owner Joe Lacob the other night at the arena. I wrote my Sunday column based on that interview — it will get posted later tonight — and it’s a character study of Lacob. Who is he? There is very little nitty gritty basketball in it. I am fascinated by who people are. The column is 1200 words, about a double column in length. Space is limited in a newspaper and I could not get in the article all the quotes I wanted. So I’m putting extra quotes here and a few quotes in longer version than they will appear in the column I hope you find these interesting.
Cohn: I say Lacob seemed naïve at the luncheon introducing him and Peter Gubers. He said he knows all the NBA rosters and plays twice a week when I asked what qualified him to own a team. I say he needs to move beyond things like that.
Lacob: Pause. Well, you’ll challenged me by this naïve conversation. No one is perfectly prepared to own an NBA team. Right? You could sit there and say, ‘Who’s perfectly prepared?’ If you name a name I’ll give you reasons why I don’t think that’s the case. I think I probably have and Peter together more experience coming into into this – unless you’ve done it before – than probably anybody you would ever see buying an NBA team. We both have owned sports team before. In my case a smaller ABL. Peter owned minor-league baseball teams. I’ve been on the board and ownership and basketball committee – all the decisions I’ve seen first hand with the Celtics, not many come in having that experience and exposure. I’ve started 70 companies. My firm has started hundreds. That’s certainly got to help in some respect. Peter has run major outfits, film companies. So we have a lot of experience and sports specific experience. In terms of basketball, Peter hasn’t played basketball but that doesn’t mean he’s not smart about it. In my case, I think I’m as good a fan as anybody. from that level anyway in terms of knowledge, interest and paying attention and reading everything, I think I’m probably as good as anybody out there who could have been an owner. I don’t know. You say naïve but I can’t think of a better background. I wouldn’t have done this if I felt totally unprepared or like the wrong person to do it. I think we have a pretty good idea what our strategy is and what our plan is and where we’re going to go with this. And I’ve had a little bit of experience watching the Celtics first hand and some of the mistakes we made and some of the good things we did. I feel pretty prepared for this to be honest.
Why is Peter a suitable partner for you?
Well, you know when you get along with someone pretty well. You can just sit here and talk and you feel it and I’m a gut guy a little bit. Peter is somebody I’ve known over ten years. I’ve almost bought franchises with him before so I’ve sort of seen how he thinks. We independently looked at the A’s. We were also together on the Dodger deal with Frank McCourt. We were Frank McCourt’s partners for a while. Then we decided prior to that closing that we just didn’t think that partnership was going to work. We got to know each other quite well on that. Without going into a lot of detail Frank wasn’t the right guy for me and for Peter. Peter and I realized we saw eye to eye and so we’ve maintained contact over the years. Peter’s a great partner for me because he is complementary. He brings things to the table that I don’t. This is a sports business, a media business, an entertainment business. I have invested in some media businesses but I’m not really from the entertainment industry. He is. He’s very complementary. If you’d have both of us here you’d hear him talk and most of the conversation would tend to go to fan experience, entertainment, media. He’s fascinated with it, it’s his whole life. He’s probably one of the smartest guys in Hollywood. He’s amazing. I really respect him a lot and I trust him a lot. I trust him. We get along really well.
Could you give a few adjectives to describe your personality?
Perceive my personality? I’ll try to be objective about this, what other people might say who know me well. I’m very dogged. I’m very intense about things. I refuse to lose and I don’t think I’ve ever lost in my life any goal I’ve set for myself. That’s a big statement to make. Usually I’ll take an experience where I haven’t really made it and I’ll turn it into a victory. I look at things very positively. I’m a go-forward guy. I say to people who have a problem with an issue, and I’ll say, ‘I really don’t want to talk about it. Those atoms have passed, those molecules. It’s over. Time is not reversible. Let’s go forward, see what we can do from here. I’m a very optimistic perpetual motion going forward kind of guy. I’m a believer in general. You can’t be a good venture capitalist if you’re not a believer. You’ve got to be a guy who can dream and go make dreams happen. I think Peter’s that way, too. I’d say I’m mostly a very positive person, very high energy. I can get very intense and very tough when I need to.
Look, I have fired a number of people in my life. CEOs. That’s the job you’ve got to do in the business I’m in. Unfortunately that’s part of it. No one likes doing it. I don’t like doing it. It has to happen and you have to do it sometimes. If I come to the decision this person’s not right for the job, as an example, I’ll make the change. (He bangs the table).
Did you feel competitive with Larry Ellison to buy the Warriors?
No. other than the fact I was competing to get the franchise. Otherwise, no.
Did you know him?
No. I know of him a lot. I have great respect for him. He just happened to be the road block in the way. I didn’t care if it was him or anybody else. It just happened to be him. I wasn’t naive about that. He was going to be very tough to beat. We just decided we’re going to hang around the rim as they say in basketball and we’re going to stay in it and we’re going to go get this thing within reason. If he really wanted to pay anything for it he could have probably. Right? He’s a very wealthy man. As rich as we are, he’s richer. If he wanted to do it he could have done it. He obviously didn’t want it enough. That was our calculus. We thought that was a possibility. I didn’t see him courtside at the game. One game I’ve ever seen him here. Generally if you’re interested in buying something or being part of something you tend to be there or involved. If you’re a golfer you want to play golf at the best courses. If you want to race cars – these are things I do – you go do that. The fact he’s not at the games kind of struck me as odd. I was part of a group of guys that owned tickets for a long time. Ten or 15 years. It might have been longer.