Jordan tipped as possible buyer

Updated: May 23, 2009, 2:56 AM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After losing tens of millions of dollars, the first black majority owner of a major professional sports team is exploring selling the Charlotte Bobcats.

Michael Jordan
Jordan

Bob Johnson's decision could pave the way for minority investor Michael Jordan to take control of the team -- if he's willing to meet Johnson's price.

The NBA confirmed Friday that Johnson is using a New York-based sports financial services firm to seek additional investors. Jordan said in February that he'd be interested in someday getting majority control of the team.

Johnson and Jordan did not immediately respond to requests for interviews on Friday through team spokesmen.

The Charlotte Observer first reported Thursday that Johnson is using Galatioto Sports Partners to help with a potential sale. The firm, which Johnson used to assemble his initial group of minority investors, includes former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik.

"We are aware that Bob Johnson is looking for additional investors, and has retained Galatioto to assist that effort," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.

Johnson's ownership of the team has been rocky since he paid the NBA $300 million for the expansion franchise in 2003, just over a year after the Hornets left Charlotte for New Orleans.

The founder of Black Entertainment Television hasn't come close to turning a profit because of poor attendance, lagging sponsorship sales and a failed attempt to start a regional sports television network.

Johnson could find a buyer in Jordan, who bought a minority stake in the team in 2006. Johnson then gave Jordan total control of the basketball operations.

In February, Jordan said he'd like to increase his stake in the team.

"My interest to grow as an investor is still strong," said Jordan, who was voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last month. "Purchasing the whole team I don't think that's an option right now. But if parts of the team become available, financially, if I can afford it, I'd definitely like to grow my investment."

Finding an agreeable price may not be easy. Forbes magazine recently valued the team at $284 million, less than Johnson's expansion fee. The team plays in a city hard hit by the financial crisis, and the credit crunch could hurt any deal of that magnitude.

However, the team also keeps all profits from the downtown Charlotte arena it operates and the Bobcats have improved on the court. Jordan hired Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown last year and he guided the Bobcats to a 35-47 record, the best in the franchise's five seasons.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press