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James Dolan: I’d Consider Selling Knicks for Right Offer UPDATED

New York Knicks

In a recent ESPN interview, Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan indicated he’d sell the New York Knicks for the right offer, but later stressed that the team is not for sale.

Madison Square Garden Co. currently owns several franchises–including the Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers–with Dolan serving as its chairman. Although the Knicks have struggled on the court under Dolan’s leadership, the club is still one of the most recognizable in the league, and any effort to sell the team would likely trigger a bidding war that came in at a premium cost.

During a wide-ranging discussion with ESPN, Dolan suggested that he would sell the Knicks for the right offer. He indicated that, while high price tags have been thrown around for the Knicks, he has yet to receive a “bona fide offer” that would trigger a sale. Also, as Dolan points out, MSG’s status as a publicly traded company would give shareholders considerable influence over whether to sell the Knicks or any of its other franchises. More from ESPN:

Dolan, who is chairman of Madison Square Garden and also owns the New York Rangers, told ESPN’s Ian O’Connor in a wide-ranging interview released Monday that there have been “feelers” of offers upward of $5 billion for the Knicks, but that “no one has come through with a bona fide offer.”

“You hear numbers all the time,” Dolan told ESPN when asked about selling the team. “… I think people have sent feelers out, but never any that were pursued. Yeah, [the feelers are] around that number [$5 billion], but those things, it’s like a stock price. It’s only important if you’re going to buy or sell.”

Dolan, 63, said he loves the Knicks and Rangers, “but you still have a responsibility to your shareholders.”

“You have a responsibility as the guy who runs the place to deliver on that for them, that’s being open and transparent. And so in that position, I could never say that I wouldn’t consider selling the Knicks. Now, my family is not in that position, and they are the majority shareholders. They hold the majority of the vote. … As a majority owner, I don’t want to sell, either. As the head of the public company, you can’t say you can’t sell, because then you’re telling your shareholders that your own personal feelings about your assets are more important than their money. And they won’t invest with you if you do that.”

In its most recent NBA valuations, Forbes valued the Knicks at $3.6 billion, the highest among the league’s 30 teams. Whether that number would be approached or exceeded in a sale remains to be seen, but Dolan’s comments suggest that, while selling the Knicks is always a possibility, it will take a very strong offer for him and MSG to commit give up control of the franchise. There were also indications earlier this fall that MSG, which is working to separate its sports and entertainment businesses, has no plans to sell the Knicks.

In a later statement, Dolan was direct in saying the Knicks were not for sale, in a statement issued by Madison Square Garden:  “As we have previously stated, there are no plans to sell the Knicks.”

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