Michael Jordan became the first former NBA player to become majority owner of a basketball franchise on Wednesday when the NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale of the Charlotte Bobcats to the hall of famer. The deal also marks the first time two African Americans have exchanged the majority ownership of a major sports franchise.
A $275 million deal between Jordan and Bobcat's owner Robert Johnson for ownership of Bobcats Sports & Entertainment, which includes the NBA franchise and Time Warner Cable Arena, was struck last month. The agreement calls for Jordan to take on $150 million in debt, as well to cover future losses and improvements to the club. Prior to the deal, Jordan was a minority stakeholder in BSE and its head of basketball operations. Now that the NBA has approved the transfer of majority ownership, the ultra-competitive Jordan will no doubt exercise greater control of the Bobcats in his effort to lift the team to the status of world champions, the same task he accomplished as a player for the Chicago Bulls.
"We are pleased that Michael Jordan's purchase of majority ownership of the Bobcats was approved by the NBA's Board of Governors and closed in such a smooth and expeditious fashion," said NBA Commissioner David Stern in a statement. "We look forward to the continued growth of the Bobcats, on and off the court, under his leadership."
Jordan, who was already an equity partner in the franchise and served as head of basketball operations since 2006, had been angling to buy the team for much of the last year, when it became much more apparent that Johnson might be willing to sell. The Bobcats have lost millions since Johnson bought the team for $300 million six years ago, and he has poured an estimated $80 million into running the club.
"Purchasing the Bobcats is the culmination of my post-playing career goal of becoming the majority owner of an NBA franchise," said Jordan in a statement. "I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to build a winning team in my home state of North Carolina."
Jordan appears to be on his way to achieving his goal of building the winning team, as the Bobcats are expected to earn their first ever playoff appearance this year. BSE president and chief operating officer Fred Whitfield says attendance, television ratings and corporate support for the franchise are all trending up, which will be essential to keeping the team profitable. The NBA's Hornets left Charlotte in 2002 for New Orleans after support in North Carolina for the club waned. Two years later, the league established the Bobcats as an expansion team for the 2004-2005 season.
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