The Seattle Seahawks are famous for The 12th Man – their rabid fanbase that makes playing in their stadium a nightmare for visiting teams. With devoted fans and a growing media market, you might be wondering who owns the Seattle Seahawks. After all, long-time owner Paul Allen passed away in 2018.
Let’s dig deeper into who owns the Seattle Seahawks and what they could be worth in their next sale. We’ll also dive into three potential future owners.
Who Owns the Seattle Seahawks Today?
The Seattle Seahawks are owned by Jody Allen, the sister of Paul Allen. However, it should be noted that Jody Allen is a trustee of Paul Allen’s $20 billion estate, which she has been unwinding since 2018. Early estate sales have included his mega-yacht (sold for $325 million), and $168 million worth of property.
Eventually, it’s expected that Allen’s two franchises – the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Blazers – will be sold as well. The question is, when will they go up for sale?
Seahawks History: Past Owners of the Seattle Seahawks
Before diving any deep into when the Seahawks might be sold, we need to look back more closely at why Paul Allen owned the team in the first place.
Looking back at team history, the Seahawks franchise was awarded on June 4, 1974. Before the end of the year, the Nordstrom family – which owned the department store Nordstroms – were announced as majority owners.
Buying the franchise was a fortuitous move for the family, as a then-blockbuster TV contract that paid each franchise $5.5 million per year was announced shortly after the acquisition. The Nordstroms were good team owners. They were local and generally led the team on an upward path. However, they were also exhausted by several labor disputes (that led to player strikes) during this period and decided it was best to sell the team.
The next owner was real estate owner Ken Behring, who bought the team in 1988. The Behring years saw the team’s performance plummet. Worse, it was becoming increasingly clear the Seahawks would need a new stadium. In 1994, the team had to move to nearby Husky Stadium after tiles began falling from the Kingdome’s roof.
With Los Angeles now an open market (both the Raiders and Rams had moved) in 1996 Behring moved the team’s operations to Anaheim. Fortunately for the city of Seattle, the move violated the terms of a contract with King County that kept the Seahawks in the Kingdome through 2005. With the NFL threatening to fine Behring $500,000 per day if he didn’t move the team back to Seattle, he relented and returned the team’s operations to Seattle.
Paul Allen Buys the Seahawks
Today, the Seattle area is known as one of the most economically strong regions in America. It’s home to multiple trillion-dollar companies (Amazon and Microsoft), Boeing Commercial Airlines, Starbucks, T-Mobile, and Costco.
However, in 1996 the Dot-Com boom hadn’t yet happened and many of the now iconic companies from Seattle were a mere fraction of their current size.
So, at the time there weren’t as many local options that could save the team. One of the few was Paul Allen, who had co-founded Microsoft but left the company in 1983. Allen agreed to purchase the Seahawks for $200 million (Behring had bought them for $80 million in 1988), but his purchase was contingent on King County voters approving a new $425 million stadium.
The vote barely edged by, with just 51% of voters approving the new stadium. Yet, that was enough for Paul Allen to become the local hero needed to save the franchise. He took over the Seahawks and soon led the franchise to heights never seen. Prior to Allen’s ownership, the Seahawks had just a single Division Championship.
Under Allen’s ownership (1997 to 2018) they won nine Division Championships and made 13 playoffs. Best of all, the franchise won its first Super Bowl in February 2014. Allen was a fantastic owner of the Seahawks that was widely respected across the league, but unfortunately, he passed away in 2018.
The Seattle Seahawks Ownership After Paul Allen
This brings us back to the current ownership of the Seattle Seahawks. Paul Allen’s sister Jody was much more than a sibling, she co-founded Paul Allen’s Vulcan Company that manages his philanthropy and business interests in 1986. This is very important to note.
The key reason is that Jody Allen isn’t simply someone related to Paul Allen that’s executing a series of finely planned instructions from a will. Instead, Jody was also his business partner. Paul Allen had a vision for both his sports franchises and business that he wanted Jody Allen to continue on for years to come. So, while it was widely believed after Allen’s passing that the Seahawks would be divested, Jody may have more patience in selling the team.
Could the Seahawks Get a New Owner In 2024?
The most recent rumblings on a potential Seahawks sale happened in September 2022, when Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay went on record that he believes the Seahawks are the next NFL team available for sale.
Irsay said he expects the Seahawks would be sold in the 2024 range.
How likely is that? It’s doubtful Irsay has any “inside information” on Allen’s plans. However, there is an important milestone in 2024 that could impact their sale. After May 2, 2024, the Seahawks will no longer have to pay 10% of their sale price to the state of Washington.
That unusual provision was part of the referendum to build a new stadium for the Seahawks. Simply put, it was to ensure Paul Allen wouldn’t sell the team to new ownership that could move them out of town.
The most recent NFL sale was the Denver Broncos, who sold for $4.65 billion. So another way to think about this is that by waiting until after May 2024, Jody Allen will likely get at least another $500 million for the sale of the Seahawks. Paul Allen was a shrewd businessman and certainly knew of this deadline. It’s like the reason Jim Irsay signaled the Seahawks might sell in 2024 is because of this exact provision.
3 Top Candidates to Be the Seahawks’ Next Owner
So, who could be the Seattle Seahawks’ next owner?
Our guess is that while a local owner is preferred, a buyer being from Seattle also isn’t make-or-break in the plans Paul Allen left his sister. When Paul Allen bought the franchise, the Seahawks were in serious jeopardy of leaving Seattle for good. Today, there simply aren’t any “open” markets that are more attractive than Seattle. In addition, the Seahawks have become an institution in the city. Their popularity has skyrocketed over the past 15 years.
Here are three names to watch:
- Jeff Bezos: It recently leaked that Jeff Bezos was interested in buying the Washington Commanders. With Bezos spending more time in DC (Amazon recently named DC its “HQ2”), an interest in the team would make sense. However, there has been some speculation he could also be involved in Seahawks ownership. New England owner Rober Kraft said in 2019 “It would be in everyone’s best interests if someone that’s as community-oriented as Bezos gets involved in the Seattle situation.” If rumblings emerged Seattle would be available in 2024, perhaps Bezos would pass on the Commanders to own Seattle’s team.
- Steve Ballmer: The richest men in Seattle list is pretty short. There’s Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Ballmer. In the past, Ballmer had been interested in the Seattle Supersonics but didn’t manage to purchase the franchise (a sad what if for Sonics fans!). Instead, Ballmer ended up buying the Clippers and has poured financial resources into the franchise. As of late 2022, Ballmer’s net worth stood at an estimated $80 billion, so he could definitely afford to own the Seahawks. The bigger question is whether he’d be interested in football.
- Josh Harris: Harris isn’t a local (like the two names above), but he’s extremely serious about buying an NFL franchise. Harris currently owns the Philadelphia 76ers and has been looking for an NFL team. He reportedly was willing to go north of $5 billion to purchase the Broncos but feared he would only be outbid again at those levels. Pro Football Talk reported he might have pursued a more aggressive bid, but intends to pursue another NFL franchise. Could that be the Seahawks?
How Much Would the Seahawks Sell For?
It’s likely the Seahawks would sell for more than $5 billion whenever Jody Allen sells the team.
The last NFL sale was the Denver Broncos in the summer of 2022. The franchise sold for $4.65 billion. Forbes recently estimated the Seahawks’ value at a little less than the Broncos, at $4.5 billion. However, a few factors could work in the team’s favor.
- Trajectory: In the summer of 2022 the Seahawks traded franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Broncos. It was expected whoever purchased the Broncos was getting a team entering a stretch of years they’d be a top Super Bowl contender. However, the opposite situation developed during the 2022 football season. It’s now feared the Broncos could have locked up a declining quarterback to a contract that could weigh on the franchise for half a decade while the Seahawks received draft picks in the trade that could make them a contender. Simply put, when the Seahawks go up for sale it could be with their strongest roster since their Super Bowl winning team.
- Comparisons: In November 2022 it was reported that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder had retained an investment bank to explore the sale of the team. He’s reportedly seeking a total of $7 billion, which is $1.4 billion above Forbes’ estimated value for the team. A Commanders sale could reset the market for NFL teams even higher.
- Technology Billionaires: Seattle has a thriving economy and is located on the West Coast, making it an easy plane flight from San Francisco as well. With much of the wealth accumulation in the 21st century going to technology companies, there are simply more billionaires being created in the technology industry than anywhere else. If the Seahawks go up for sale, the bidders could include several of the richest figures in technology.