Michael Jordan is finalizing a deal to sell the majority share of the Charlotte Hornets, the franchise announced Friday, leaving the 30-team NBA without any Black majority ownership.
Jordan is selling to a group led by Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall, the Hornets said. Plotkin has been a minority stakeholder in the Hornets since 2019. Schnall has been a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks since 2015 and is in the process of selling his investment in that team.
It’s not clear how long the process of selling will take to be finalized by the NBA’s Board of Governors. Jordan plans to keep a minority stake in the Hornets, the team he bought in 2010 for about $275 million.
Jordan’s decision to sell ends his unsuccessful 13-year run overseeing the organization.
“In the same way that it’s wonderful that one of our greatest, Michael Jordan, could become the principal governor of a team, he has the absolute right to sell at the same time,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this month at the NBA Finals. “Values have gone up a lot since he bought that team, so that is his decision.”
In that same news conference at the Finals, Silver said the Board of Governors are focused on diversity in ownership groups, AP reported.
“I would love to have better representation in terms of principal governors,” Silver said. “It’s a marketplace. It’s something that if we were expanding that the league would be in a position to focus directly on that, but in individual team transactions, the market takes us where we are.”
The sale price was not immediately announced; ESPN, citing sources, said the franchise was being valued at $3 billion. The most recent sale of an NBA team came when Mat Ishbia bought the Phoenix Suns, a deal that when struck in December valued that franchise at $4 billion.
Jordan declined comment on the sale through his spokesperson, Estee Portnoy.
For as great as Jordan was on the court — national champion at North Carolina, two-time Olympic gold medalist, six-time NBA champion and in the never-ending conversation for best player ever — the Hornets never reached a championship level during his time as the owner.
Charlotte went 423-600 in his 13 seasons in charge, the 26th-best record over that span. It never won a playoff series in that time and hasn’t even been to the postseason in the last seven seasons.
Other members of the new potential Hornets ownership group — pending the approval — are recording artist J. Cole, Dan Sundheim, Ian Loring, country music singer-songwriter Eric Church, Chris Shumway and several local Charlotte investors, including Amy Levine Dawson and Damian Mills.
Along with the Hornets, HSE ownership includes the NBA G League’s Greensboro Swarm and NBA 2K League’s Hornets Venom GT, as well as managing and operating the Spectrum Center, each of which is included as part of the sale.
When Jordan, who grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, purchased majority ownership in the team, it created a great amount of buzz.
But the Hornets’ struggles and inability to turn things around bothered Jordan. The first inclination that he was looking to get out of the NBA ownership business came in 2020, when he sold a minority stake to Plotkin and Sundheim.
The Hornets are coming off an injury-plagued 27-55 season and hold the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft. Victor Wembanyama is expected to go first overall on Thursday night, leaving Charlotte with the choice of either G League star guard Scoot Henderson or Alabama’s Brandon Miller.
Charlotte’s biggest star is LaMelo Ball, and the team still has some decent foundational parts to build around including Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington and Mark Williams, the team’s starting center who played well last year as a rookie.
Jordan was often criticized as an owner for not spending enough in free agency to make the Hornets competitive.
He took over a team in 2010 that had won 44 games the year before but had been swept by the Orlando Magic in the first round.
It went downhill from there.
Charlotte — still the Bobcats at the time — was 34-48 in its first year under Jordan and then an NBA-worst 7-59 the following year. But despite the abysmal record, Charlotte failed to land the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery and Anthony Davis.
Charlotte got back to the playoffs in 2013-14 but was swept by the Miami Heat. Two years later, the Hornets won 48 games but lost again to the Heat in the first round, this time in seven games.
In the seven years since, Jordan’s Hornets have had only one winning season and have twice exited early in the play-in tournament as the 10 seed.
Charlotte has not won a playoff series since the 2001-02 season and has never won an NBA championship.