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Michael Jordan Buys Stake In NBA Team

Michael Jordan became part-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats on Thursday in a deal that gives him a stake in most of Robert Johnson's ventures.

Jordan's investment makes him second only to Johnson as the largest individual owner of the Bobcats.

Johnson, who spent $300 million on the expansion Bobcats in 2002, said Jordan will be the managing member of basketball operations.

"I'm thrilled to have my friend, Michael Jordan, join me in my business and sports pursuits," Johnson said in a statement. "I not only respect Michael for his basketball knowledge and expertise, but also for his business skills, particularly in branding and marketing.

"Michael will provide invaluable management input to a Bobcats team that is poised to deliver results for the 2006-2007 season and beyond."

Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, bought into Johnson's existing portfolio. The founder of BET has financial interests in several media, entertainment and financial services, and became the first black owner in the NBA when he beat out a Larry Bird-backed group for Charlotte's new team.

He tried from the get-go to bring Jordan into the fold, offering him any position he wanted with the team, except majority owner. Jordan eventually passed, citing his desire to pursue ownership in his own team.

Now, with Johnson in the midst of a major management shake-up on his fledgling team, he's bringing in the greatest NBA player ever to help.

"I'm excited to join Bob, and invest alongside one of the most astute businessmen I know," Jordan said. "I am also looking forward to providing my advice, where needed, to Bobcats management in order to put the best possible team on the court."

The move comes two weeks after Johnson began a house-cleaning project that ousted team president and CEO Ed Tapscott, followed by the firings of the top marketing and operations officers.

Johnson gave no reason for the removals, but was believed to be unhappy with the business side of the franchise because he was losing money and had a very small season-ticket base.

With Jordan — one of the most beloved figures in state history — by his side now, he should see an instant boost. But in giving Jordan the final say in basketball decisions, he's risking a repeat of the same mistakes Jordan made with the Washington Wizards from 2000 to 2003.

Jordan became part owner and president of the Wizards' basketball operations in 2000, and was immediately criticized for selecting high schooler Kwame Brown with Washington's first round pick in the 2001 draft.

He made other suspect decisions along the way, including his move to return as a player before the 2001 season. He played two years, during which the Wizards failed to make the playoffs, and then retired again after the 2003 season.

He assumed he would return to his front office job, but owner Abe Pollin instead fired him — Jordan's first basketball setback since he was cut from the varsity team as a high-school sophomore.

Johnson, who met Jordan at a Chicago Bulls game a dozen years ago and struck up a lasting friendship, offered Jordan any job he wanted with his basketball team that same day.

Jordan mulled it over for close to four months before passing on the offer. He also tried to purchase a majority interest in the Milwaukee Bucks, but Sen. Herb Kohl ultimately decided not to sell.

Jordan had been largely out of sight since then. Now, he has a long road ahead of him in rebuilding a fan base still bitter over the Hornets' departure to New Orleans in 2002. He'll also have to fix several of Johnson's early missteps.

The Bobcats ranked 28th in attendance after their first season in the outdated Charlotte Coliseum, then moved into a new $265 million arena last season that has yet to secure naming rights. Though the arena received rave reviews, the Bobcats sold out only seven of 41 games and averaged 16,366 fans, just 22nd in NBA attendance.

Even worse was their season ticket base, which is believed to be right around 5,000 and third worst in the NBA. In response, Johnson announced the team would lower season ticket prices for next year.

The Bobcats have also been hampered by an exclusive television deal with Time Warner Cable and the failed launch of Johnson's own regional sports network. Carolinas Sports and Entertainment Television was only available to Time Warner's digital cable subscribers, and Johnson pulled the plug on the network after the inaugural season.

The Bobcats then agreed to air most of their games on Time Warner's news channel, which is not available to satellite TV subscribers.

Charlotte's product on the floor is also subpar. The Bobcats went 18-64 in their first season, but improved to 26-56 and closed last year with a four-game winning streak despite numerous injuries.

Jordan grew up in Wilmington, graduating from Laney High School before playing college basketball at North Carolina, where he hit the game-winning shot for the Tar Heels in the 1982 national championship game against Georgetown. It was the first national title for North Carolina coach Dean Smith.

Jordan spent three seasons with the Tar Heels and was named Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year and The Associated Press national player of the year in 1984. He skipped his senior season and entered the NBA draft, where he was the third overall pick of the Bulls.

Later, when Jordan made his second comeback with the Wizards, the team held its preseason training camp in Wilmington in 2001 and 2002.

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