John Nordstrom admits he probably shouldn’t have sold the Seattle Seahawks

Mar 30, 2016, 8:51 AM | Updated: 10:34 am
John Nordstrom says, thanks to some fortuitous turn of events, his family basically paid nothing to...
John Nordstrom says, thanks to some fortuitous turn of events, his family basically paid nothing to purchase the Seahawks. (AP)

It was 1974, and Uncle Lloyd Nordstrom came to the Nordstrom family asking to split 51 percent of $12 million for an expansion Seattle Seahawks teams.

It was the midst of a stock market crash that dropped Nordstrom department store’s stock from $24 per share to $8 and John Nordstrom was building a house for his young family.

Related: The most inspiring speech you’ll ever hear from a coach

In a wide-ranging interview with KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson, John Nordstrom explained how he ended up owning the NFL team and why he decided to let it go.

“It was a perfect storm and he wanted us to pledge $750,000 each &#8212 to a football team,” Nordstrom said. “I said, ‘No I don’t want to do it.’ The other seven said yes. Our family tradition is we always do things together. So I was the outlier and I said, ‘OK. Sally and I think we’re crazy but let’s go.’ And so that was the good news. The bad news is about 30 days later they said, no, no, no, not $12 million, you’re going to pay $16 million.”

Despite the $750,000 morphing into $1 million, the NFL offered to help Seattle’s owners pay rent on their then-stadium, the Kingdome.

“The league saw that we had a 10 percent rent, by far the highest in the league,” Nordstrom said. “Of our ticket sales, we had to pay 10 percent to the county. So the league said we don’t want to have unequal teams coming into the league financial. So you have eight years to pay for it at no interest. So we had eight years to pay for it. So that meant we would only have to borrow maybe $150,000 initially, and then each year $150,000 more.”

Then something else happened: The league negotiated a national $2.2 million per year per team TV contract.

“So we had a guaranteed $2.2 million coming in without any ticket sales or anything,” he said. “Well, we found out about a month later that that was going to go to $5.5 million per team. That just kind of came out of blue, which meant that we really didn’t even have to go to the bank and borrow any money.”

So, basically, the team was free?

“Embarrassingly, I have to admit, it was pretty close,” he said.

Why is that embarrassing?

“It didn’t seem right,” Nordstrom responded.

So why did the Nordstrom family ultimately decide to sell the Seahawks in 1988?

“We really, really enjoyed owning the team until we had two work stoppages; two player strikes,” he said. “You’ve got to remember we have a great relationship with our sales people and the people that work in our stores. I don’t want to say it’s a love affair, but we just think they’re fantastic. Well, we just loved our football team and all of a sudden you’re fighting with guys you think are great and it was really unpleasant. And of course, then the bumper stickers start to show up: Cheap Nordstrom owners. (The strike) happened once, that was fine. Then it happened again and our group just said we don’t want to go through another one of these.”

Nordstrom sold the team for $80 million to real estate developer Ken Behring, who Nordstrom says gave him his word that he wouldn’t move the team from Seattle. That, ultimately, turned out to be a lie, though a potential lawsuit kept the team in place. Dori asked why Nordstrom didn’t have Bearing codify his keeping the team in Seattle.

“Maybe because I didn’t think it was necessary; he was so positive it wasn’t gonna happen,” he said. ” … Looking back, yeah, maybe that would have been the smart thing to do, but I didn’t do it.”

“It was the bottom,” Nordstrom added. “I felt so badly that I’d sold the team to that guy. I mean I felt like a real jerk. Oh, my gosh, how could I do that?”

And now, with the Seahawks valued at an estimated $1.87 billion, does he regret having sold the team?

“We probably should not have sold the team, that was probably a mistake,” he said. “But you have to remember that we knew the Kingdome had to come down … and having gone through the player’s strikes, we didn’t want to go through a public … try to get the vote to build a new stadium like Paul (Allen) did.”

Dori Monson on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dori monsonTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.

Dori Monson Show

Dori Monson

MyNorthwest Staff

Dori says farewell to Olivia Newton-John, dead at 73 after battle with cancer: ‘She was a fighter’

Olivia Newton-John, a chart-topping pop icon of the 1970s and 1980s co-star of Grease, passed away Monday.
17 hours ago
(Photo by Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)...
Dori Monson Show

Dori: Port Townsend Woman, 80, banned from pool after dispute with biological male in women’s shower

“I saw a man in a woman’s bathing suit watching maybe four or five little girls pulling down their suits in order to use the toilet,” Jaman recalled.
4 days ago
Tim Eyman ballot initiative...
Dori Monson Show

Dori: Tim Eyman’s ‘ultimate revenge’ against WA AG ‘is my continued political activism’

Tim Eyman has been forced to sell his Mukilteo home as financial restitution for more than $5.6 million in penalties and legal fees.
4 days ago
Dori Monson Show

Dori: Man arrested for murder used sword, his mom calls WA State’s mental health system ‘a total mess’

“It’s like watching them die,” Bonnie Smith told Dori Monson Show listeners Tuesday. “The son I knew no longer hardly exists in that body.”
7 days ago
(Photo by Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images)...
Dori Monson Show

Dori: ‘Senseless’ Seattle road-rage incident leads to deadly shooting while victim’s friends grieve

What started as a routine mid-morning trip to Costco to get his morning coffee ended in death for a Seattle man 11 days ago, and now Bob Jensen’s friends are asking why the driver who shot him hasn’t been arrested.
8 days ago
Kids and adults gathered at the Ontario Science Centre in a area set up for viewing the NASA releas...
Frank Sumrall

James Webb telescope sets course for new era of astronomy studies

The image, named "Webb's First Deep Field," is the first full-color image from the $10 billion observatory that launched into space last year.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
John Nordstrom admits he probably shouldn’t have sold the Seattle Seahawks