SBD/Issue 171/Franchises

Bobcats Owner Hires Investment Banker, Looking To Sell Team

Johnson Has Stepped Up Efforts To Sell
Bobcats By Hiring Sports Investment Banker
Bobcats Owner Bob Johnson has "stepped up efforts to sell the team, recently hiring a sports investment banker to look for a buyer," according to a front-page piece by Rick Bonnell of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Galatioto Sports Partners President Sal Galatioto confirmed that he is "representing Johnson in a potential sale," though he declined and further comment on the situation. An NBA spokesperson "confirmed that the league is aware Johnson is seeking investors and that Galatioto is assisting him." A source said Johnson is "committed to selling the team" and he has "lost passion" for owning it. Johnson, who owns about 70% of the club, last month said that he would "like to sell controlling interest" to Bobcats Managing Member of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan. But sources indicated that he has "begun looking for other potential buyers" since then. Minority partners last month reportedly were told to expect around $35M in cash losses the next two seasons. Bonnell reports the "challenge will be affixing a value on the team that Johnson and a buyer would accept." A source, who has "inquired about the Bobcats' availability," said that Johnson wants $325-350M for the team. Bonnell notes that would "approximate the original $300[M] expansion fee Johnson paid the NBA, starting in 2003, plus his initial $30[M] investment in working capital." However, it is "questionable whether a buyer would accept that valuation in the current economy." Amid the current economic recession, Johnson "faces the prospect of covering tens of millions in future losses." Bonnell notes it is "unlikely a change in ownership would result in the team leaving Charlotte." The team's lease with the city "calls for severe financial penalties should the team move out of Time Warner Cable Arena." The NBA also "would have to approve a move, and few cities without teams have an NBA-quality arena" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/22).

CHASING HIS TAIL: In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes Johnson has been the "worst owner in the history of Charlotte and one of the worst in the history of professional sports." Johnson "came into a bad situation and, through arrogance and consistency, made it worse." Fans "don't go to games because of the owner," but if they are "peripheral fans, the owner is enough to keep them away." If Johnson wants to "end his reign as owner with a graceful act that will long be remembered, he should sell cheap." Sorensen: "Just get out from under it. Don't be the bad guy anymore. ... Accept that being entrusted with a sports franchise is not for everybody" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/22).

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