Michael Jordan finalizes sale of Charlotte Hornets

CHARLOTTE — Months after we reported that Michael Jordan was in talks to sell the Charlotte Hornets, the team announced Friday that the sale has been finalized.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported that Jordan finalized the sale of Charlotte’s NBA team, and and agreement is expected to be signed within the next few days. Details about the cost of the deal haven’t been made public.

Jordan will be selling his majority stake in the team to a group led by Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall. Plotkin is a minority owner with the Hornets and Schnall is a minority owner with the Atlanta Hawks.

Jordan, a six-time NBA champion and five-time MVP, is considered the greatest player in the history of the game, and he was the league’s only Black majority owner before the sale was finalized. Jordan will keep a minority stake in the team, the Hornets said on Friday.

Jordan sold a significant minority stake to Plotkin, founder and chief investment officer of Melvin Capital, and Daniel Sundheim, founder and chief investment officer of D1 Capital, in 2020, and sources say that Sundheim is part of the group working to purchase the team.

The buying team also includes North Carolina recording artist J. Cole and country music star Eric Church. Chris Shumway, Ian Loring, and Dyal HomeCourt Partners, and several investors from the Charlotte area, including Amy Levine Dawson and Damian Mills, are joining Sundheim and Plotkin’s buyer’s group.

ESPN said Jordan will maintain a “presence with the franchise,” according to sources.

Jordan paid $275 million for that stake in 2016 and has now sold it for $3 billion.

“The question that everybody has is whether the new regime will spend more money on players,” said Erik Spanberg, the managing editor at the Charlotte Business Journal. “Michael Jordan has not been aggressive with spending on players”

Spanberg explained that the new majority owners will run a different playbook when they take over on July 2.

“They’re led by private-equity investors, who have not had a taste of championship glory,” Spanberg said.

ESPN host Stephen A. Smith says Jordan’s business savviness can’t be denied even with strong opinions about his controlling stake in the Hornets.

“Because of who he is, trust matters so much that getting the right person in there is second to having people you can trust and that has always been a very difficult thing for him,” Smith said. “I think that everybody associated with the NBA has to pay an incredible amount of gratitude to him for what he has done for the game.”

The city of Charlotte should also thank Jordan, Spanberg said.

“Michael had the team turning a consistent profit, and then he and his front office go to the city of Charlotte and they get a guarantee for $275 million to renovate the arena and build a new practice center,” Spanberg said.

That deal extended the Hornet’s lease of the Spectrum Center through 2045 making the team very attractive.

“So, if you’re coming in as an owner, you have no doubt you know where you’re playing,” he said. “You know it’s going to be upgraded and you know won’t have any messy negotiations to worry about.”

‘Their next step’

Many Hornets fans in Charlotte were surprised to hear the news Friday, but very few who spoke with Channel 9 were disappointed.

“Fresh blood in the NBA -- getting new ownership to keep it vitalized and vibrant is a great thing,” said one fan.

They’re hoping that new blood will pump some new life back into the squad, which was plagued by injuries last season.

“Their next step is to kind of figure out how to make the Hornets a better team,” said Rod Boone, a Hornets beat writer for the Charlotte Observer.

Boone said that while Jordan’s name holds weight, his time as an owner has fallen short of success on the Hornets’ court.

“Michael, as we know, is one of the greatest players of all time -- Hall of Famer. The state loves him, but he hasn’t been a winning owner here in Charlotte in 13 years,” Boone said.

Under Jordan’s leadership, the team has never seen a playoff series win, and it has the fifth-worst record in the league.

“I think the fans, this gives them a chance to actually kind of reset things and say, you know what, you have a new owner coming in ... and we can come maybe spend a little bit more money, maybe be more of a winning program right now,” Boone said.

The sale is subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors.

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