SBD/Issue 172/Franchises

Michael Jordan To Consider Buying Bobcats Controlling Interest

No Names Beyond Jordan Have
Emerged As Potential Buyers
Bobcats Managing Member of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan will "take a serious look at buying controlling interest" in the Bobcats from Owner Bob Johnson, according to sources cited by Rick Bonnell of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Though Jordan has not commented since reports emerged last week that Johnson has stepped up his efforts to sell the Bobcats, sources said that Jordan has the "interest and the financial backing to pursue the team." But the question for Jordan, or any other buyer, is "what Johnson will peg as the team's value." A source said that there is interest, "mostly from out-of-town suitors, in buying the franchise," and added that those suitors "aren't interested in moving the team and are sensitive to the reputation Johnson acquired as an absentee owner in Charlotte." But Bonnell noted no names beyond Jordan's "have emerged, as far as potential buyers, and there's little doubt Johnson would be receptive to selling to his good friend" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/23).

SHOULD JORDAN RULE? In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes nothing Jordan has accomplished "indicates he is capable of running a major-league franchise." Sorensen: "The Bobcats (the organization, not the team) have been so abysmal for so many years that they need to start over. ... I hope Michael and his supposed super secret investment partners are not sitting in the shadows, waiting to see how low [Johnson] will go before they pounce" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/27). But the OBSERVER's Scott Fowler writes Jordan is the “logical choice -- the insider with star power who also happens to be the best basketball player ever.” Fowler: “Jordan could be an excellent owner if he makes a few changes to the way he does business. I certainly prefer him to an outsider with a big wallet and no deep ties to Charlotte.” What Jordan “needs to do is buy a controlling interest in the team” from Johnson, then he “needs to learn from” Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/27).

GOOD NEWS FOR FANS:'s John Hollinger wrote the Bobcats being on sale "has to be good news for their fans." The odds of the team relocating are "minuscule, as Charlotte has a new arena and a solid market, not to mention the fairly harsh penalties for departing," and whoever takes over is "almost certain to operate the team more competently" than Johnson. The new owner also presumably will not let Jordan "run the team from the 12th green or shut out the local TV audience, and he might even be encouraged to spend some money on players" (, 5/23).

TERMS OF A DEAL: The OBSERVER's Bonnell noted Johnson reportedly is "clinging to the idea he can recoup his initial investment -- about $330[M] -- as the current value of this team." But for reasons "both macro (go try to get a $300 million business loan in this economy) and micro (plenty of empty seats at most Bobcats home games), selling this team for a price Johnson would accept will be challenging." A source said that he would be "surprised if Johnson owned this team by the start of next season." But the source added that the price is "what could keep a sale from happening" (, 5/22). Meanwhile, Charlotte attorney Mac McCarley said new Bobcats owners "would be subject to all the same restrictions and guarantees" if the team is sold. McCarley, when asked if the team could leave Charlotte, said, "No. The city may seek an injunction to force the team to honor the commitment to play here, or can enforce liquidated damages of $200[M] in the first five years (2005-2010), $150[M] in years five to 10, and a declining balance going from $85[M] in year 11 down to $7[M] in year 25." McCarley noted the liquidated damage provisions are "guaranteed by the team and by Bob Johnson personally" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/24).

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