IN 2001, it seemed that Portland—and the Beavers—had found the ideal owners: Marshall Glickman, who is the son of Trail Blazers founder Harry Glickman, and who worked in the Blazers’ front office from 1989 to 1995 (eventually becoming team president); and Mark Gardiner, a successful sports-facility consultant and former finance manager for the City of Portland. That was the year that the two bought the Albuquerque Dukes and brought them home as the Portland Beavers.
Back in 1998, the pair formed Portland Family Entertainment (PFE) with an eye toward revamping the crumbling Civic Stadium and building a business around minor league sports. In a backroom deal decried by those who prefer openness in their civic leadership, Glickman and Gardiner convinced then-Mayor Vera Katz to dedicate some $33 million in city funds to renovate the facility.
But this shady how-it-came-to-be story was largely forgotten during Civic Stadium’s big reveal: Renamed PGE Park, it was a beaut. Skyboxes replaced some of the old bleachers, the scoreboard was hand-operated, local beer was served, and the whole arena had a retro feel that harked back to the good ol’ days of baseball. Attendance spiked.
As part of the package deal, Portland Family Entertainment also reestablished the Timbers, which had been the city’s Major League Soccer team in the 1970s; convinced New York-based pension fund TIAA-CREF to invest $23.5 million in the company; and persuaded a group of Portland bigwigs to invest some $6 million in PFE as limited partners. But PFE’s apparent success turned out to be nothing more than a paper-thin veneer. Glickman and Gardiner were paying themselves exorbitant salaries, costs were out of control, and revenues were much lower than what the company had projected. And while PFE was able to get a stadium renovated—no small feat—the company proved less than capable of actually running it. Infamously, PGE Park ran out of hot dogs on opening night.
In 2004, 10 days before the first pitch of the season, the Pacific Coast League rescinded the Beavers franchise for “defaulting on its obligations.” In other words, PFE couldn’t pay the stadium rent. The team immediately became the property of the PCL, which owned it for a little over a year and pinch-hit on management decisions. The next owner on deck was Abe Alizadeh, a Sacramento-based real estate developer who bought the team in 2006. While attendance grew under Alizadeh and the other managers who helped advise him on the sporting aspect of his portfolio (“I love baseball,” he remarked in the local press, to explain the purchase), Alizadeh stayed put in California and attended fewer than 10 Timbers and Beavers games as owner. He clearly was in it to clean up the mess, get the organizations on solid financial footing, and ready them for sale.
Since around 2003, Paulson had been “assessing a variety of ownership opportunities” that ran the gamut from buying a Major League Soccer franchise to running an NBA development league. When the Portland opportunity came up, he immediately dropped the two other deals that were on the table. It didn’t take long for him to see the possibilities: Under the terms of the deal, Paulson would become owner not only of the Beavers, but also of the Timbers. He would take over the lease for all events at PGE Park—Beavers and Timbers games as well as Portland State University football and special events like the Oregon State University (OSU) Beavers preseason baseball games against the University of Georgia Bulldogs (which, even in February, drew more than 30,000 fans to the ballpark over a three-game series). He’d have himself a great stadium near downtown Portland, he’d have a team with a venerable history, and he’d be the owner of a soccer team in a soccer-crazed town.