EDMONDS — Thirteen years ago this month, Dawn Trudeau, a former Microsoft executive, and her business partners bought the Seattle Storm from the Seattle SuperSonics for $10 million. The purchase in March 2008 would keep the Women’s National Basketball Association team in Seattle when the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma City later that year.
In October, the Seattle Storm won the 2020 WNBA championship after trouncing the top-ranked Las Vegas Aces, sweeping the best-of-five finals series.
It’s the latest triumph for the 21-year-old team, which now boasts four WNBA championships.
Trudeau is the keynote speaker at this year’s Edmonds International Women’s Day event, a free, two-day virtual conference that kicks off Sunday. Trudeau will be joined on Monday by Sue Bird, four-time Women’s National Basketball Association champion, and by event founder Alicia Crank.
Trudeau spoke with The Daily Herald ahead of the event and recalled the group’s 2008 decision to buy the team. Trudeau and her partners, who had been a season ticket-holders since the Storm’s founding in 2000, had about a month to close the deal.
“Looking back, it’s like, ‘Wow! we were just insane to do that,’” Trudeau said.
The partners couldn’t foresee what was on the horizon.
The Great Recession would upend the U.S. economy, and the Sonics, the National Basketball Association team, would leave Seattle a few months after they took the reins of the Storm.
The Storm had a joint operating agreement with the Sonics for back-office functions.
“They left in the middle of the season when they were purchased and moved to Oklahoma City,” Trudeau said. “We had to figure out how to build an organization while we were running a season,” Trudeau said. “Fortunately, we’re good at brainstorming together and working out problems together.”
“Sometimes ignorance is bliss,” she laughed. “You don’t know you can do something until you do it.”
For women considering their next big move — whether it’s deciding on a career or founding a business — do your homework, and if it’s feasible, make the leap, Trudeau advises. Instead of “talking yourself out of something, talk yourself into it,” Trudeau said.
Remember: A successful baseball player only gets a hit a third of the time, she said.
Trudeau has been a member of the Board of the Economic Opportunity Institute, University of Washington Women’s Center Advisory Board, Board of Social Venture Partners Seattle and currently leads the Microsoft Alumni Network Board.
“I’ve always been a person that wants to support other women,” Trudeau said. “I think a huge part of how we can be successful as a gender is to make sure that we are inclusive and supportive. It’s not a zero-sum game, meaning the broader we make the tent, the more more of us will be successful and have a good life.”
The Storm ownership group is Force 10 Hoops, composed of Trudeau, Lisa Brummel and Ginny Gilder.
“Take our partnership, for example,” said Trudeau. “We’ll say: Here’s the issue or the challenge or the opportunity — let’s figure it out, and then we make a decision and we go forward. That way it’s not about who’s in charge, it’s about putting the three of our brains together in the best possible way.”
Trudeau was an executive at Microsoft from 1984 to 1998, its formative years.
“I’ve been out of the industry for 20 years, but I can tell you that when I was at Microsoft, there were very few women that were in the technical side of the business. They were mostly accounting or human resources, or support functions,” Trudeau said. “It was unusual to be a woman in the room. I think that that has changed. It’s gotten better. But I also think there’s still room for improvement.”
In purchasing the Storm, the partners also envisioned a social justice role for the team. “We loved the Storm, but we also thought that we could do something that was a combination of sports and a social justice business,” Trudeau said. “ That was something that was really appealing to us.”
They’ve kept that promise.
Through the years, the Storm has donated to a range of women’s causes. In 2017, the team donated to Planned Parenthood, which provides a wide range of health care. With an “attack on women’s reproductive and health rights, and we just felt like we we needed to do something,” Trudeau said.
Last year, as racial unrest swept the nation, the team joined the league in supporting the Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name movements, offering fundraising and financial assistance.
Players designed and sold “We Are Breonna Taylor” shirts to honor Taylor, a Black woman killed by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, home. They sent the proceeds to the Breonna Taylor Foundation.
“COVID-19 has shown the value of female leadership,” Trudeau said. “If you look at the countries that handle COVID the best … all of them are headed by a woman. It’s not that, you know, women are perfect. It’s just that I think we approach things differently.”
Trudeau hopes for the return of in-person games, though she admits that could take time. “I’m looking forward to whatever niche we can have,” she said.
She’s also hopes to see some familiar faces this year. “I haven’t seen most of my family now for a year and a half,” Trudeau said.
“The other thing I’m looking forward to is seeing where we can go nationally,” Trudeau said. “I’m excited about the Biden Administration. They definitely share my values, and I think that they’re very powerful, smart people that can really help our country move forward.”
Beyond that, “wear a mask, social distance and get vaccinated,” said Trudeau. “Let’s all do our part.”
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods