Can Jordan win from the owner’s box?

Struggling Washington Wizards look to Mike to reverse fortunes

He’s back. Only this time don’t expect him to suit up . . . at least not yet. Michael Jordan has returned to the NBA, but not to the bench. Rather, he has taken a co-ownership role with the Washington Wizards.

Jordan, 36, became a partial owner and the new president of basketball operations for the Wizards on January 19. He will now oversee the organization’s daily operations along with General Manager Wes Unseld. Jordan’s reported ownership stake in the team is somewhere around 10%, at an estimated value of between $20 million and $30 million.

“I’m looking for-ward to the challenges that this opportunity brings,” said Jordan in a statement. “It’s our goal to bring an NBA championship
to Washington.”

Jordan acquired the minority equity share in the team’s ownership through a partnership with Lincoln Holdings L.L.C. Lincoln Holdings, led by America Online executive Ted Leonsis, owns about 44% of the Wizards, the MCI Center (the team’s home arena) and the nearby U.S. Airways Arena. It also owns all of the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals team. Jordan, however, does not have any say in the hockey organization. Jordan’s share has the potential to increase to 20% ownership should current Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin decide to sell his shares.

With the deal, Jordan becomes only the fifth African American to own a portion of an NBA team. Former All-Star Magic Johnson has a small stake in the Los Angeles Lakers, and Edward and Bettiann Gardner are part owners of the Chicago Bulls, Jordan’s former team. And last year Bill Cosby picked up a minority percentage of the New Jersey Nets.

“Jordan is a sports and business icon,” says sports business analyst Phillpe Liegh at Raymond Jameson Associates in New York. “And any business would want the celebrity and attention that he brings with him. He can’t make the Wizards win. But he wants to win and his business partners want to as well.”

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