SBD/Issue 126/Franchises

Stern Says Jordan Likely To Be Approved By End Of The Week

Stern (l) Believes Jordan Can Make An
Impact In Charlotte As Bobcats Owner

NBA Commissioner David Stern Friday indicated that prospective Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan "will likely be approved as majority owner of the Bobcats by late" this week, according to a front-page piece by Rick Bonnell of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Stern said that the price of the sale will be $275M, $25M less than what Bobcats Owner Bob Johnson "agreed to pay in 2002." Stern said that the "expedited approval process reflects Jordan's urgency to fix the team's problems." Stern: "I think it's fair to say it's struggled in Charlotte. ... It didn't start as well as we would have liked or Bob Johnson would have liked." Bonnell noted the Bobcats "had a series of missteps the past five-plus season that have muted their popularity." The team "overpriced tickets" when they moved into Time Warner Cable Arena, and Johnson "started a regional sports network -- C-SET -- that lasted a single season." Johnson also "publicly berated the local business community for not supporting the Bobcats enough." Stern said that the "various missteps -- he specifically mentioned television rights and naming rights -- were factors in Johnson selling for less than he originally paid." Bonnell noted Jordan "recently met with Stern, asserting he's prepared to spend the time and focus to fix a franchise that is losing tens of millions annually." Stern: "Without question, that is his plan, to do whatever it takes to improve the team as a community asset." Stern added if Jordan's presence makes the Bobcats "into a premier franchise, then players will want to be there." Stern: "His name alone won't do that. But I believe he will have that impact." Stern also confirmed that Johnson "had a written agreement to sell the team" to a group led by The Postolos Group Owner George Postolos had Jordan chosen not to buy the Bobcats (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/13).

LAST-BEST HOPE: The OBSERVER's Bonnell wrote Stern is "relieved Michael Jordan stepped up to buy the team because -- my words, not Stern's -- Jordan is the last-best hope to make Charlotte thrive again as an NBA market." Jordan "hasn't always been around" while serving as Bobcats Managing Member of Basketball Operations, and "things could improve only so much until Bob Johnson made an exit." The Bobcats currently are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings, and "reaching the playoffs will help, but that won't entirely solve the Bobcats' perception problem." Bonnell wrote of the Bobcats, "Sure they need Jordan. More importantly they need an engaged Jordan" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/14).

TO THE HEAD OF THE CLASS: N.Y. Times columnist William Rhoden said with Jordan on the verge of becoming Bobcats Owner, he is "instantly eclipsing Mark Cuban as the NBA's most highly profiled owner." Rhoden said as a player, Jordan's "desire to win was second only to his desire to win championships. I expect that spirit to permeate the Bobcats entire organization" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 3/14).

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