The Golden State Warriors have dribbled their way into the hearts of the people of the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2015, they have won three NBA championships and have featured some of the greatest teams in NBA history. None of this would have been possible without the support of Franklin Mieuli. The former owner of the Warriors was responsible for the team coming to the Bay Area and fought to keep it in his home when it began to lose support from his fellow owners. His determination and tenacity helped bring an NBA title to the Bay Area in 1975, cementing the Warriors as a fixture in Northern California. This is his story.
Franklin Mieuli was born on September 14, 1920 in San Jose, California. The son of Italian immigrants grew up in a businesslike yet humble setting. His father, Giacomo, and older brother Jack owned and operated Navlet’s Nursery in the East Bay. After graduating from San Jose High School in 1940 and the University of Oregon in 1944, Mieuli enlisted in the Navy and served in the last days of World War II.
Following his discharge, Mieuli entered the family business, learning the intricacies of a small time business. In 1949, he left Navlet’s Nursery for Burgermeister Brewery as their Advertising Director. Due to their being a sponsor of the San Francisco 49ers radio broadcasts, Franklin Mieuli got his first foray into the trappings of professional sports.
Building an Business
At the turn of the decade, Franklin Mieuli began producing 49ers radio broadcasts on KSFO and even produced their first televised game in 1954. It was during this time when Mieuli purchase five percent of the 49ers, an investment he would keep until his death in 2010. When the Giants moved to San Francisco from New York, he produced their games on KSFO too while buying a small percentage of the franchise. Eventually, he renamed his radio broadcasting company “Franklin Mieuli Associates” which would grant him the capital that he needed for much higher priced business ventures within the next several years. One of Mieuli’s first hires when the Giants came to the Bay Area was Bill King who would go on to a legendary sports casting career with the Warriors and the Oakland Raiders.
In 1956, Franklin Mieuli bought five reel-to-reel audiotape duplicators from Ampex. These devises were used to distribute sports and music programming on radio stations. As a result of his market discovery, Mieuli formed Hi*Speed Duplicating Company, the first of its kind in Northern California.
In 1959, Mieuli created KPUP, a Bay Area news station which reflected his love for classical music by formatting Jazz music format. He later changed the name to the jazzier-sounding KHIP and sold it to Leon Crosby in 1962 for $146,000 to fund his purchase of the Warriors.
In 1962, Frank Mieuli joined a group of 32 other investors to purchase the Philadelphia Warriors from Eddie Gottlieb and move them to the Bay Area. Within a year after the purchase, many of the owners wanted to bail out and Mieuli bought each of them out until he owned the whole team. He wasn’t a typical NBA owner of the era. Instead of wearing suits and having a clean shaven look, he would often wear colorful shirts and dungarees with a straggly beard and a deerstalker cap finishing the ensemble.
In those days, the Warriors were led by the generational talent of Wilt Chamberlain. With the Boston Celtics steamrolling through the competition to championship after championship and the Los Angeles Lakers still in the hunt for their first championship, the Warriors had to struggle to even get to the Finals. They made the NBA Finals in 1964 where they lost to the Celtics. After missing the playoffs the next two years, they came back to the Finals in 1967 where they would lose to Chamberlain’s Philadelphia 76ers.
The Warriors entered a stretch in the late 1960’s and 1970’s where they would make the playoffs in eight out of the next ten years. Mieuli help break racial barriers in the NBA by encouraging his front office to sign players regardless of skin color. By the time they were ready for a championship, ten out of 12 players on the Warriors team was African American as well as their coach, Al Attles. In 1975, they again reached the NBA Finals, where they would upset the heavily favored Washington Bullets in a four game sweep. After losing in the Western Conference Semifinals in 1977, the Warriors wouldn’t be back to the playoffs again for the next decade. Franklin Mieuli sold the Warriors to Jim Fitzgerald and Daniel Finnane in 1986 for less than $20 million.
Following his sale of the Warriors, Franklin Mieuli continued to serve on the board of Franklin Mieuli and Associates, which handled broadcast engineering for 30 college and pro teams. He was inducted into the National Television Academy/Northern California Chapter’s Gold Circle in 2006 and the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame the following year. He passed away on April 25, 2010. Franklin Mieuli and Associates continues to produce radio broadcasts for numerous teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and the NCAA.