John Tomase

Thoughts on Grousbeck, new C's owners, and why Henry isn't the answer

Who would be the ideal successor to Wyc Grousbeck in Boston?

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Still coming to grips with the idea of Wyc Grousbeck – the one Boston owner who shows how much he cares through his actions and not via Apple TV vanity projects – no longer owning the Celtics. So here are some thoughts on Grousbeck's legacy, what a new buyer might look like, and where the other local owners fit in this process, if anywhere.

-- Grousbeck is considered one of the poorest owners in professional sports, with a net worth of only $400 million, and it goes without saying that both halves of that statement are relative. So selling the team answers the basic question of how he could possibly afford upwards of $300 million in looming luxury tax penalties. He can't, so he's moving on.

But the fact that his wealth is not obscene by pro sports standards perhaps helps explain his everyman appeal (again, it's relative). Among Boston's four owners, Grousbeck stands apart. He has never demanded credit by manipulating back channels like the vainglorious Robert Kraft, he's not an absentee landlord like Jeremy Jacobs, and he hasn't become an aloof technocratic asset manager like John Henry.

He's the owner most devoted to winning, and it's a tough blow to lose him.

-- We all love the idea of local ownership, and in a perfect world, Celtics partner Stephen Pagliuca would step right in, increase his stake in the team and become the new majority owner. Pagliuca was a finalist a couple of years ago for English soccer powerhouse Chelsea, which sold for over $5 billion. He should be every Celtics fan's No. 1 choice.

-- Strongly disagree with Darren Rovell's contention that Grousbeck wouldn't be signing players for hundreds of millions if he didn't have a buyer in mind already.

First off, the franchise is more valuable with Jayson Tatum attached to it, so it's not like the Celtics were going to let him walk – max contracts for superstars are the cost of doing business. Secondly, it's hard to imagine serious bidders will be turned off by having a championship core in place. Put another way: anyone whose offer hinged on Derrick White's extension wasn't a real contender in the first place.

-- So who gets the team? This is where we should brace ourselves for the great unknown. When superfan Mark Cuban shockingly sold the Mavericks last year, the buyer was Miriam Adelson, widow of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The Adelsons are longtime conservative megadonors who wouldn't be the obvious choices to own a franchise in our most socially conscious league, where players are admonished to shut up and dribble. But here we are.

Or maybe the C's go to a Saudi wealth fund that loses any connection to the city and turns the team into an instrument of sportswashing, as is happening all over European soccer. It's only a matter of time before state-funded ownership comes for iconic U.S. brands, too.

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Our ideal owner is a unicorn -- rich enough to afford $300 million luxury tax hits, civic-minded enough to treat the Celtics like a treasured local institution, normal enough not to have any baggage. You don't get that rich without baggage.

-- the three local owners, John Henry is the only one to show an active interest in expanding his portfolio, and it's no secret that Fenway Sports Group would like to add an NBA franchise to its holdings.

But based on recent history, no thank you. There's nothing Henry hates more than writing luxury tax checks. He'd blow up the Celtics so fast in the name of fiscal responsibility, it would be Mookie Betts squared. You can already hear management explaining how unsustainable the current roster is. Nightmare. No.

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