Barry Ackerley, owner of the Seattle SuperSonics for 18 years and the president of one of Seattle’s most prominent — and controversial — media companies, died Monday at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, CA., at the age of 76 after suffering a stroke last Saturday.
Ackerley purchased the Sonics in 1983 from Sam Schulman, and his team made 13 playoff appearances during his stewardship, including a 1996 appearance against the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. Ackerley’s teams won four Pacific Division titles and one Western Conference championship.
Ackerley was one of the first sports owners in the United States to broadcast games on radio and TV stations that he owned.
His company, The Ackerley Group, owned thousands of billboards, plus radio and television states in six states. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he drew the ire of Seattle city officials for cutting down trees so that his billboards would be more visible.
In 2001, Ackerley sold his company to Clear Channel Communications for $495 million in stock.
Ackerley sold the Sonics in 2000 to Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz for $200 million. Schultz then sold the Sonics to Clay Bennett of Oklahoma City, and the team relocated there in 2008.
Ackerly presided over some great times.
I don’t blame him for selling to Shultz – who could?
The most questionable thing Ackerly did was to hire Wally Walker as president, and probably regretted it later when Walker helped to orchestrate the sale to the OKC boys. Walker ushered out Shawn Kemp and George Karl as well – not quite the midas touch.
In the end, I’d have to thank Barry for presiding over a very memorable era.
I am still in awe that Ackerley owned two awesome companies and sold both of them one year after the next. His name was on billboards everywhere. I just don’t get it.