When Joe Lacob and Peter Guber were attempting to purchase the Golden State Warriors in 2010 from Chris Cohan, they were competing against Larry Ellison.
Lacob and Guber knew they would be unable to beat out Ellison in an open auction.
“When it got to $400 million, it was us and Ellison,” Lacob remembers in a lengthy piece from The Athletic written by Ethan Strauss. “I wasn’t even sure Ellison had a real bid at 400, I didn’t know. There were a lot of rumors that he did not, that he was waiting for me to go away because we needed to go away, we weren’t real. We had heard those rumors. So we were there, we felt we could do that. And once it got to that level, which kind of was the walk-away number initially, I said, ‘all right, thank you so much.’ It was going to take four and unfortunately he had more money than us and he, if he really wanted it, let’s be clear, he could’ve had it because he was one of the richest men in the world. He could’ve outbid us, no question.”
Lacob and Guber used an "exploding offer" tactic but insisted on meeting with Cohan in person to do so.
“Joe said, ‘We’ll call him and make this offer.’ I said, ‘Man, I’m a storyteller!’ That’s my whole history, 35 years," said Guber. "When you’re trying to sign a piece of talent, a big star actor, a talent, an artist, you have to be there. You have to look them in the eye. You have to breathe the same air. You can’t take any edge off your opportunity.”
“The key part of the strategy at that point had turned,” Lacob says of the ploy. “I called Sal Galatioto and said, ‘I need a meeting with Chris Cohan directly.’ And Sal said, ‘He’s not meeting with the buyers.’ I said, ‘Well, I have to drop out then. I need to have a discussion about whether I could really buy this team.’
“At first Sal refused and then finally for whatever reason, allowed us to meet with Chris Cohan. And so he said, ‘His son has a lacrosse tournament in Baltimore and if you want to meet him, it’s going to have to be tomorrow.’”
David Stern hinted at this move back in 2010.
“It wasn’t quite cloak and dagger, but it was to a degree,” said Stern.
Lacob retells, “I said in the meeting with Cohan, ‘I can’t bid against Larry Ellison. We just can’t do that.’ So can you name a price that you will sell it to me for. Just name the price.’ And we’re in at 400, which we thought was a lot, and I’m sure Larry (Ellison) did too. And Cohan said, ‘I can’t do that, we have a process, a bidding process, blah, blah, blah.’”
Lacob then added pressure to Cohan.
“I said, ‘Well, here’s the deal — I’m not bidding anymore, so I’m out. I can’t beat him in a bidding process. But if you give me a price that you absolutely will take, I will give you an answer yes or no.'”
Lacob and Guber were pessimistic initially.
“Cohan did not accept this at first,” Lacob recounts. “I told Peter as we’re flying home, I said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to get it.’” All that work, all that preparation, had led to another impasse, another stymied effort at buying a team. Or so it seemed.
“The next day, they called me back, and his people said, ‘It’s decided. He likes you.’”
The Warriors were ultimately sold to Lacob and Guber for $450 million.