Don’t Play for a Pro Team. Own One.

Michael Jordan’s takeover of the Bobcats makes him the only black majority owner of a major U.S. sports franchise.

Posted:
 
97838512
Getty Images

Michael Jordan, pro basketball's greatest player, and a lackluster executive for two franchises, once said in a Nike commercial, "I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

He got another chance when his bid for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats was accepted. Although, how much he paid is in dispute. Forbes magazine set the Bobcats' value at $175 million: a steep plunge from the $300 million Robert L. Johnson paid for the team in 2003.

The NBA won't provide details, but a spokesman's e-mail to The Root stated, "we expect the transaction will value the Bobcats at between $275-$290 million and that Michael Jordan is acquiring an 80 percent stake."

The deal between Johnson, the first black majority owner of a major U.S. pro sports team, and NBA legend Michael Jordan, who earned hundreds of millions highlights why no other blacks own controlling shares in pro basketball, football or baseball teams.

During segregation, when fan interest was high, start-up costs were low, and there was scant competition, blacks started, bought and sold leagues and teams. Today's pro sports owners--often billionaires--have access to enormous capital, influential associates and can manage the timing of a deal.

Since the 1980s, African Americans have controlled one or two of those ingredients, but the trio needed to be a majority owner eluded everyone except Johnson and Jordan. Blacks are, and have been, pro team limited partners. This is a look at some of those would-be owners, as well as individuals who decided to invest in teams in less expensive pro sports.

The first blacks to become managing general partners of a major pro sports franchise, if briefly, were Bertram Lee and Peter Bynoe. In 1989, the pair, with partners tennis pro Arthur Ashe and then-Democratic National Chairman Ron Brown, signed a deal to buy the Denver Nuggets for $65 million. After the financing became a problem, the duo's investment partner, Comsat Corp., bought the team.

Between 1999 and 2002, Bob Johnson made three offers for the Bobcats' predecessor, the Charlotte Hornets and was rebuffed by the owner, George Shinn. In 1999, Shinn also rejected Michael Jordan's bid for a controlling interest in the Hornets.

In 2000, Jordan paid between $20 million and $30 million for a 10 percent stake in the Washington Wizards and became president of basketball operations. The deal also gave him a share of the National Hockey League Washington Capitals.

But Bob Johnson, the man who sold Black Entertainment Television to Viacom for $3 billion, is persistent. In 2003, after Shinn decamped to New Orleans with the Hornets, Johnson became the majority owner of the expansion NBA Charlotte Bobcats, and later the Charlotte Sting of the WNBA. African-American members of the multi-ethnic investment team included former Boston Celtic, ML Carr, rapper Nelly, as well as two prominent African Americans from the area.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.
Must-See Family Attractions
July 29 2014 2:13 PM