Jun 16, 2023 - Business

Michael Jordan to sell his majority stake in the Hornets to buyers that includes J. Cole, Eric Church

Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan at the Spectrum Center. Photo: Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Basketball legend Michael Jordan is selling his majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets to a group led by minority owner Gabe Plotkin and Atlanta Hawks minority owner Rick Schnall.

Why it matters: Largely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, Jordan has owned the team for the last 13 years. He’s the NBA’s only Black majority owner. 

Yes, but: The team’s on-court has been mediocre in recent years. They haven’t made the playoffs since the 2015-2016 season.

  • Charlotte is set to pick second in the upcoming NBA Draft on June 22.

By the numbers: The Hornets are worth an estimated $1.7 billion, per Forbes. The sale price was not disclosed, however.

Details: Jordan will retain a minority share, according to a statement Friday from Hornets Sports & Entertainment.

  • The NBA Board of Governors must approve the transaction before it’s official.
J. Cole performs at halftime during the 68th NBA All-Star Game at Spectrum Center on February 17, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jeff Hahne/Getty Images)
J. Cole performs at halftime during the 68th NBA All-Star Game at Spectrum Center in 2019. Photo: Jeff Hahne/Getty Images

Zoom in: The purchasers, called the “The Buyer Group,” will include North Carolina natives rapper J. Cole and country music star Eric Church, as well as Chris Shumway, Dan Sundheim, Ian Loring and Dyal HomeCourt Partners. There are also several local Charlotte investors such as Amy Levine Dawson and Damian Mills, per HSE’s release.

  • Schnall, co-president of a private equity company, is expected to finalize a sale of his investment in the Hawks in the coming weeks. Since 2015 he has served as an alternate governor on the NBA Board of Governors.
  • Plotkin, also an alternate governor on the board since 2019, acquired his minority stake in the Hornets in 2019. He is the founder and chief investment officer of an investment firm.

Of note: Included in the sale are Greensboro Swarm, the NBA G League affiliate of the Hornets, and Hornets Venom GT, the affiliated NBA 2K League esports team. HSE also manages and operates the Spectrum Center.

The big picture: North Carolina has seen how fresh ownership leads to new ideas impacting the team culture and fan experience, but it doesn’t guarantee immediate success. The Carolina Panthers and Hurricanes both changed hands in 2018.

  • Both new owners were impactful in different ways. The Hurricanes seemed headed for the Stanley Cup this year but fell short in the playoffs. David Tepper brought major league soccer to the city and big-name performance acts to Bank of America Stadium. However, the Panthers haven’t made the playoffs, let alone had a winning season, since Tepper came on board.

Flashback: Jordan purchased his majority stake in the team in 2010, back when they were the Charlotte Bobcats, from former owner Bob Johnson for $180 million. Before that, he’d been minority owner in the team since 2006.

  • In 2020, Jordan sold a significant minority stake to Plotkin and Sundheim, founder and chief investment officer of D1 Capital, as ESPN reported.
  • In 2019, Charlotte hosted the NBA All-Star Game, creating an $87.7 million economic splash, per Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. The league had relocated the game in 2017, when it was originally slated to take place in Charlotte, because of its objection to North Carolina’s HB2, the so-called “bathroom bill.”

Of note: The sale news comes amid Lending Tree stepping away as the Hornets’ uniform patch sponsor — the team has not yet announced a replacement. The sponsorship was extended for an additional three years in 2020 and worth a reported $5 million a year.

The bottom line: Jordan brought the beloved Hornets name back to Charlotte in 2013. As an owner, despite a lackluster record, that’s his legacy.

Eric Church performs at CMA Fest 2023 in Nashville. Photo: Terry Wyatt/WireImage
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