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Why Is Mark Cuban Selling?

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 10: Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is seen during the basketball friendly match played between Real Madrid and Dallas Mavericks at Wizink Center pavilion on October 10, 2023, in Madrid, Spain. (Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images)
Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images

Mark Cuban is apparently selling financial but not basketball control of the Dallas Mavericks at a valuation that seems to be $1 billion less than what Forbes says the team is worth. Not that Forbes is any guide, but normally the numbers go up rather than down. This lands squarely as a 7.7 on the international WTF scale and requires some hard-edged fact-light specuguessing, since the deal still has to be vetted (read: approved in slow motion so as to give the illusion of due diligence).

In other words, either Forbes's numbers are high, or Cuban's got other stuff to do while still maintaining operational control in case he needs to fire Jason Kidd or trade Kyrie Irving on a Tepperesque whim.

Cuban is in “advanced talks” to sell 57 percent of his franchise to Miriam Adelson, widow of Vegas bigpants Sheldon Adelson and the fifth-richest woman in the world. Her net worth is pegged at $32 billion, making her the third-richest owner in American sports after Screamin' Stevie Ballmer and Rob Walton, so she can cover the action. Cuban remains in control of the operation, especially the basketball part. That 57 percent comes out to $2B, which would value the franchise at $3.5B. That $2B also matches the amount of Sands stock Adelson just sold with the intention of getting into sports ownership, so in this case one plus one seemingly equals two despite the often-dodgy maths applied in big business.

It must also be mentioned that Cuban is leaving Shark Tank, the long-running and cringeworthy TV show/paean to high-stakes beggary that explains how the clogged sewers of American commerce get drained. I mean, spending less time with that lineup of reptiles is probably its own reward, but since Cuban is a bit of a lizard himself he might not view it as such.

But clearly he has something in mind, and most folks think it is a gambling and entertainment megaplex in the Metroplex that would include a new arena for the basketball team and would require a massive construction project and legalization of gambling in Texas. If that's worthy of accepting a relatively lowball offer, well, we presume he's done the research. 

Is it as simple as that, though? What explains this seeming flurry of divestiture from a man whose free time was normally taken up stumping for NBA referees to be prosecuted at The Hague?

Maybe he needs money: Well, maybe, though when you’re talking 10 figures, “need” is a relative term.

Maybe he really does want to get in on the gambling/casino craze: We'll call it a "craze" rather than a boom because while the ads are everywhere, gambling is like every other entertainment: subject to the fluctuations of an economy run by drunken pirates with eyepatches on both eyes and a shoulder parrot who doesn't speak. If this is his way of becoming the first big player in Texas gambling, well, Adelson's people know their onions, and maybe they need a foot in the door in Austin when the lobbying perks get distributed.

Maybe he has a fear that the next NBA media rights deal won't be the expected bonanza: Most folks who claim to be in the know think the next deal, which would start in 2025, will be double and maybe triple the size of the current one because those rights have never gone down or been undervalued before. On the other hand, this asks more of Wemby and Chet and Tyrese and 45-year-old LeBron and 40-year-old Steph and Jordan Poole than the audience might be willing to bear. Surely at some point this Jenga tower must collapse, right? Maybe Cuban's years on the front lines interrogating people trying to get funding for self-salting microwave meals and robot-powered dogwalkers has given him insights about how desperately Netflix really wants that Tuesday night Pistons-Hornets/Clippers-Blazers doubleheader. Maybe he caught the first whiff of the dollar's apocalypse and is looking to build a luxury shelter until the radiation dies down. 

Maybe this is an act of conscience in support of Jimmy Dolan: This is way too far-fetched to consider, because it requires both someone having sympathy for Dolan and Cuban having a conscience.

Maybe he wants to get into politics: To which let us be the first to say, "Oh FFS, not this again." This is how we got the Rouged Turnip who still darkens our towels today even while he sits in the dock—by scouring out soul-eviscerating TV shows for the first shrieking toucan who can come up with something as pithy as "You're Fired." Cuban seems less dim and megalomaniacal than that, but not so much that a run couldn't have crossed his mind. He's certainly capable of what soccer-knowers like to call "shithousery," just because billionaires need only two things to qualify: a billion dollars and the willingness to behave badly to those less fortunate. 

In all, Cuban's choice represents a new look at how the sausage-makers view the product, whatever the motivation, because getting in the game has always been regarded as preferable to getting out, and Cuban seems to be getting out, or at least out-ish. The fun, as it always is, will be in ferreting out the why.

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