Mar 1, 2021 - Sports

Breaking down the WNBA's new ownership landscape after sale of Atlanta Dream

Table: Axios Visuals
Table: Axios Visuals

The Atlanta Dream were sold over the weekend to a three-person ownership group that includes former WNBA star Renee Montgomery.

Why it matters: After Dream co-owner and former Sen. Kelly Loeffler denounced the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, WNBA players pushed for her to sell the team, while also helping lead a grassroots movement to elect Raphael Warnock to her Senate seat.

  • With this sale, both campaigns have now proven successful.

Leading the purchase this weekend were Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair, the chairman and COO, respectively, of Northland, a Boston-based real estate equity firm.

Renee Montgomery holds a basketball
Renee Montgomery. Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of note: Montgomery, 34, who retired this month after sitting out the 2020 season to focus on social justice initiatives, is the first former player to be part of a WNBA ownership group.

"My Dream has come true. Breaking barriers for minorities and women by being the first former WNBA player to have both a stake in ownership and a leadership role with the team is an opportunity that I take very seriously."
ā€” Montgomery

The backdrop: When the WNBA was founded in 1996, all eight teams were located in cities with existing NBA teams and, by rule, shared ownership.

  • By 2002, the NBA began allowing outside ownership groups to buy into the expanding league.
  • Now, less than half of the league's 12 teams share NBA ownership.

The landscape:

  • Five teams share ownership with their NBA brother team: The Fever (Pacers), Liberty (Nets), Mystics (Wizards), Mercury (Suns) and Lynx (Timberwolves).
  • Three teams share ownership with another pro sports team: The Aces (Raiders), Sparks (Dodgers) and Wings (Bill Cameron is a part-owner of the Thunder).
  • The Sun are owned by the Native American-operated Mohegan Sun casino, the Storm are owned by an all-female group, and the Sky are owned by real estate developer Michael Alter.
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