WNBA Brass Surprised As Sparks Ownership Gives Up Franchise Due To Financial Losses
The WNBA is "searching for a new Sparks owner" after Majority Owner & CEO Paula Williams Madison "told the league her family-owned company would no longer be involved with the team," according to Melissa Rohlin of the L.A. TIMES. WNBA President Laurel Richie said, "This was a big surprise to us." However, the WNBA "is not taking over control of the Sparks." Richie said that several entities have "expressed an interest in owning a WNBA team and the league is exploring those options regarding the Sparks." The Sparks' front-office staff, including Exec VP & GM Penny Toler and President Vincent Malcolm, "has been laid off." A league spokesperson said that Sparks coach Carol Ross and her staff also "have been relieved of their duties." A league spokesperson added that the players "have gotten paid and their benefits will continue." Richie said that the Sparks' "problems do not reflect on the financial health of the rest of the teams in the league" (L.A. TIMES, 1/3). ESPNW's Michelle Smith noted it is "not inconceivable that the WNBA could run the Sparks in the short-term rather than allow it to disband entirely" as the league ran the Comets franchise "for a brief time before the team was ultimately disbanded." But the WNBA "chose not to take over" when the Monarchs ceased operations in Sacramento, and "scrambled to find new ownership in Atlanta several years ago" (ESPNW.com, 1/2). Madison said that the team had lost $12M since she "took over ownership" in '07, including $1.4M last year, and her "family couldn't sustain the losses any more." Madison said, "After we went through the budgeting process we saw we'd lose over a million again in 2014. We lost our marquee sponsorship with Farmer's because they had to redirect local spending to Farmer's Field" (AP, 1/2).