Michael Jordan became a basketball star at North Carolina. Now he'll try to turn around the state's money-losing NBA team by becoming the first ex-player to be a majority owner in the league.
The NBA's Board of Governors on Wednesday unanimously approved Jordan's $275 million bid to buy the Charlotte Bobcats from Bob Johnson. Jordan will take over the team immediately after serving as a minority investor with the final say on basketball decisions since 2006.
"Purchasing the Bobcats is the culmination of my post-playing career goal of becoming the majority owner of an NBA franchise," Jordan said in a statement. "I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to build a winning team in my home state of North Carolina.
"I plan to make this franchise an organization that Charlotte can be proud of, and I am committed to doing all that I can to achieve this goal."
The six-time NBA champion and five-time league MVP will be charged with turning around the fortunes of the 6-year-old Bobcats, who are on pace to lose about $30 million this season because of sluggish ticket and sponsorship sales.
The 47-year-old Jordan, who will assume about $150 million in debt in the deal, becomes the second black majority owner of a major pro sports team. He replaces the first in Johnson, who paid $300 million for the expansion franchise, but lost tens of millions annually and saw the value of the team decline as Charlotte fans struggled to warm to the NBA again after the Hornets left for New Orleans in 2002.
"The best decision I made since acquiring the Bobcats was to convince my friend Michael to become an investor in the Bobcats and to appoint him as managing member of basketball operations," Johnson said in a statement. "As the new majority owner of the Bobcats, his dedication will be stronger now more than ever."
Commissioner David Stern predicted last week the deal would be approved easily by the league's owners. Stern said last week that background and financial checks on Jordan produced nothing that would stop the deal, and expressed optimism Jordan's iconic status in this area will boost the franchise.
Jordan grew up in Wilmington, N.C., and led North Carolina to an NCAA title with a last-second shot before starring with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan briefly ran the Wizards basketball operations and returned as a player with Washington before being fired from his management role in 2003.
"We are pleased that Michael Jordan's purchase of majority ownership of the Bobcats was approved by the NBA's Board of Governors and closed in such a smooth and expeditious fashion," Stern said. "We look forward to the continued growth of the Bobcats, on and off the court, under his leadership."
The Bobcats (34-32) entered Wednesday's home game against Oklahoma City in sixth place in the Eastern Conference as they eye their first playoff berth. Team officials hope a playoff appearance after Jordan took control would boost interest and ticket sales in the franchise, which plays in a 5-year-old downtown arena.
"While there is still plenty of work to do both on and off the floor, our attendance, television ratings, corporate support and on-court performance are headed in the right direction," Bobcats president Fred Whitfield said. "That trend will only continue as Michael transitions into all facets of our business."
Jordan, who has declined interview requests since striking a deal to buy the team on Feb. 26, is scheduled to hold a news conference on Thursday night.