O’Neil: A farewell to Howard Schultz, the man who sold out the Sonics
Let’s a raise a glass of overroasted, bitter brew to the tallest drip of them all.
Yep, here’s to you Howard Schultz.
It’s kind of fitting that you are stepping away after 40 years at the helm of Starbucks. That’s how long the team that was Seattle’s first pro sports franchise lasted in this town.
The Seattle SuperSonics. Remember them? You owned them for a little bit. Well, you and 60-some other guys – because you were rich but not that rich. You were the front man, though. The guy who celebrated like crazy when the team won and slumped in his seat, pouting like a third-grader when it lost. In fact, in 2004 at least one of your top basketball officials had to tell you that if you sat courtside, you had to act like an adult and not pout at the first sign of trouble.
In hindsight, it’s clear that was a sign of things to come. You weren’t exactly a grown up when it came to dealing with adversity. You were a front-runner who sulked when your team didn’t win. And and when you started whining about your digs at KeyArena and the city and state politicians provided a collective shrug, well, you didn’t just pout. You quit.
You sold us out in Seattle, and not only that, but you had the gall to bill it like a celebration. There were balloons when you introduced the new ownership group from Oklahoma City.
The reality was that you didn’t have the stomach to threaten the city with relocation in order to extort a new arena, so you sold it to a group that would.
No one doubts your business acumen, Howard. You started with seven stores and now have a net worth north of $2 billion.
What is in question for me and everyone else who remembers how you sold this city our is your convictions. When the going got tough, you cashed it in, and you haven’t even had the decency to apologize to us.
The fact that you might run for president is comical to me. You couldn’t even negotiate a sports arena in the city where you live, and as much of a joke as our city council can be, I think there might be trickier situations you would have to deal with at a national level.
And if you didn’t get your way, would you sell 45 of our 50 states to Slovakia, claim it was the only way to save our republic and then announce the whole transaction with balloons?
A civic trust. That’s how Schultz repeatedly described the basketball team he purchased, and that civic trust was irrevocably broken when he sold that same team to the group that wound up hijacking Seattle’s oldest pro sports franchise.
So here’s to you, Howard Schultz, as you exit the company that made you rich with an eye toward a country you may want to lead. Here’s hoping the rest of the country gets to see you for what you are: the smooth-talking huckster whose distinct lack of a backbone becomes apparent at the first sign of difficulty.