‘The heart and soul of a franchise is its ownership,’ and not the city in which it plays.
After six months of due diligence, Paulson also came to view the city as “a sleeping giant,” meaning a market in which the Beavers should have had strong brand recognition—and one in which more people should have been showing up to the stadium for games. “My goal is not to criticize prior ownership,” Paulson says, “but everyone in sports will agree that [the Beavers franchise] underperformed.”
And there was the allure of Portland itself. “Heather and I are big outdoors people,” he says. Both are avid skiers, so much so that Paulson asked Heather to marry him at Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin, halfway down Pallavicini, a double-black-diamond run.
Paulson’s purchase price was reported by local media as $16 million, though a confidentiality agreement bars Paulson from either confirming or denying the accuracy of the figure.
PAULSON’S OFFICE is in Suite 32 at PGE Park—one of the corporate skyboxes that were installed during Civic Stadium’s renovation. The floor-to-ceiling windows roll up, garage-door-style, giving guests access to a balcony that contains a dozen stadium seats. The furniture is modest: Costco-quality rolling leather chairs, shelves constructed of cheap pressboard. From his desk, Paulson has a sweeping view of the field; of SW 18th Avenue, where MAX light-rail trains glide by every so often; of downtown Portland’s buildings; and of Mount Hood. When he’s not making the rounds through the stadium during a game, saying hello to, say, a member of “Team Ketchup,” which is charged with keeping the hot dog condiment stations stocked and clean, he spends the evenings here.
Engage Paulson in a conversation about the Beavers, and it doesn’t take long for him to slip into business-ese. He tends to use phrases like “return on investment,” “profit maximization,” and “market potential.” The deal he brokered with Fox Sports Northwest in December 2007 was designed to better all of those things. For the 2008 season, the network agreed to broadcast 20 Beavers games and 5 Timbers games to the 3.4 million households throughout the Northwest, including Montana and Alaska. (During the two years prior to that, Fox broadcast only a single Beavers game and a single Timbers game per season.)
Unlike many Triple-A owners for whom baseball is a side project, one of many holdings, projects, and ventures, Paulson considers the Beavers, the Timbers, and PGE Park the whole of his business. He works six days a week, 12 to 14 hours per day.
When he arrived, one of the first things he set out to accomplish was to repair any lingering rifts between the Beavers and those who would be responsible for the team’s future: the city (which lost a significant amount of money after PFE fell behind on the rent), the business community (some of whom still had concerns about supporting the team), and the fans (who needed to know that the Beavers were here to stay).
Paulson began by introducing himself to season-ticket holders and thanking them for their support. He hobnobbed with city council members, Mayor Tom Potter, Senator Ron Wyden, and Gov. Ted Kulongoski, as well as the leadership of the Port of Portland, Metro, and Portland General Electric. He met with local nonprofits like Self Enhancement Inc and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.