SBD/Issue 142/Franchises

Bobcats Owner Asks Local Businesses For Increased Support

Johnson Says Charlotte's Business Community
Not Giving Bobcats Enough Support
Bobcats Owner Bob Johnson yesterday said that Charlotte's business community "has fallen short in its support" of the Bobcats, leading him to ask execs across the region to "pony up more money for tickets, suites and sponsorships," according to George, Bonnell & Oliver of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Johnson: "I am absolutely concerned. I am doing everything I can to make this team work, including writing a lot of checks." But some Charlotte business and government leaders have said that a losing team is a "tough draw, that the Bobcats face more competition for entertainment spending than the [Charlotte Hornets] and that Johnson hasn't been highly visible as an owner." Johnson said he has lost "significant money" since purchasing the team in '03. Johnson has spent "several days in Charlotte this month, using that time to personally appeal to the heads of major companies ranging from Wachovia to Harris Teeter." Johnson said that he "wants more 'real, hard financial support'" from businesses as several private suites and club seats are up for renewal this year in the newly named Time Warner Cable Arena. Johnson's "big stake has left him making up the difference in team deficits." Johnson: "I didn't expect to be making money at all, but (I expected) not to lose as much." While Johnson declined to say how much he has lost, a source familiar with the team's business operations "placed those losses at $50[M] or more." Charlotte City Council member Warren Turner: "[Johnson's] got to put a product on the court. Charlotte's not going to support a losing anything." Former Bank of America Chair & CEO and Bobcats investor Hugh McColl said that he will "keep buying tickets, and he hasn't seen any significant signs of anemic business support." McColl: "If anything, I think enthusiasm is building. Hopefully next year we'll have a playoff contender, and we'll see things pick up" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/15).

PEANUT GALLERY: In Charlotte, Tommy Tomlinson writes of Charlotte business leaders letting Johnson down in terms of team support, "The short answer is, [Johnson's] right. The long answer is, Charlotte ain't the town it used to be." Tomlinson: "Now we've been burned. The Hornets left us. Building a new arena turned into a knife fight. Those big companies are shedding jobs. And a lot of those gleaming new houses are under foreclosure." He added: "Very little of that is Bob Johnson's fault. It's just bad timing" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/15).

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