SBD/Issue 154/Franchises

Jordan Says He Remains Committed To Wizards Front Office Job

With his Wednesday meeting with Wizards Majority Owner Abe Pollin and Capitals Owner and Wizards Minority Owner Ted Leonsis approaching, Michael Jordan said last night that he "wants to return" to the Wizards' front office, according to Wilbon & Heath of the WASHINGTON POST. Jordan: "When I came down from the front office to play, I said at that time I wanted to play for two years then resume my duties running the basketball operation. I always wanted to resume my responsibilities, always. ... I'd like to think we can iron this out." Sources said that if Jordan leaves, he "stands to collect more than $10[M]," although "the specific sum of money and the conditions that would trigger Jordan's ability to collect it are not clear." The cost of Jordan's departure "could reach $20[M] if Jordan's management team leaves with him." Jordan, on reports that he may take a job with the Charlotte expansion franchise: "I've seen [Charlotte franchise owner] Bob Johnson and I've talked to him socially. ... I've made it a point, and he's made it a point, not to talk about basketball. That would be tampering under the NBA rules, since I'm still under contract (as a player, until July 1). We simply do not talk about my position with the Wizards or what he might have available in the future." Jordan added, "My loyalty is to Ted Leonsis, to Abe Pollin and to DC. Now if things don't work out in DC, and I really want them to, then I may have to explore other options. ... I haven't had any conversations with Atlanta or Miami or Charlotte or anybody else I've been hearing about" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/6).

PRE-MEETING: In N.Y., Mike Wise reports that Jordan and Leonsis "are expected to dine tonight," as a precursor for tomorrow's meeting, which is expected to include Jordan's SFX rep Curtis Polk and David Osnos, Pollin's lawyer. Polk: "We intend to hopefully go in there, have a short and sweet meeting, and he'll be the president again." But Wise writes Jordan's reps "are privately worried that ownership is interested in a reduced role" for Jordan. A team official said that Jordan would "not report to anyone else in the organization if he were to return" to the team. The official: "There is a mistrust on both sides at this point. Will Michael return? It's definitely possible. But the road everyone is going down right now isn't conducive to that outcome" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/6).

PREDICTIONS: In DC, Thomas Boswell: "It's hard to imagine that, if everybody's feathers can be smoothed out nicely, Pollin wouldn't want to give Jordan another shot to prove himself as a front-office players. With [VP & GM] Wes Unseld on indefinite retirement, ... what is Pollin's realistic alternative? Blow everything up and start over from zero?" But "an amicable solution isn't a forgone conclusion" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/6). In Baltimore, Milton Kent writes Jordan and Pollin "still have enough mutual interests to make saving their relationship a priority," but "if Jordan remains, [Wizards] President Susan O'Malley could be forced out." A source: "If Abe is amenable to working things out, I think Michael will stay. But if Abe comes in with guns blazing, Michael would probably walk" (SUN, 5/6). In NC, John DeLong cites a source as saying, "I put it at 60-40 that they get it all worked out and he stays in Washington. But I used to put it at 90-10." Meanwhile, DeLong notes that Johnson said last week that he "would be willing to sell up to 49[%] of the new team to local investors," but "he has already sold minority shares to Felix Sabates and Hugh McColl and has been negotiating with others, so any share that Jordan might buy would by necessity be minimal" (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 5/6).

IF THEY WERE IN HIS NIKES: USA TODAY's Ian O'Connor writes that by leaving, "Jordan wouldn't only betray a market that bought into his vision of a brand-new day, he'd punctuate a self-absorbed reign of error that ended with the greatest of them all back on center stage and surrounded by bit performers who couldn't wait for their 40-year-old magician to make himself disappear" (USA TODAY, 5/6). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell wonders why Jordan would want to run Charlotte's new team, saying, "Jordan has many virtues, but patience isn't among them. And patience — more than any other trait — seems essential to happiness as the general manager of an expansion team" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/6).

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