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Michael Jordan Brings Aura to Bobcats

Michael Jordan, expected to be approved as the new majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, is banking he can do for them what he did for the NBA.

The money-losing Bobcats have not reached the playoffs in their six-year history, leading to problems attracting fans and corporate sponsors. But the "Jordan Effect" could help the Bobcats in two key ways, says Brandon Steiner, chief executive officer of Steiner Sports Marketing.

Jordan, a part-owner who bought controlling interest from Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson over the weekend, is a favorite son in North Carolina. He played on the North Carolina Tar Heels' 1982 national championship team, then became a six-time NBA champion and created a demand for all things Jordan.

As owner, a reality NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement he is "pleased has occurred," Jordan could attract players who might not have considered the Bobcats without him.

"Their idol growing up was Michael Jordan. The fact they could go to a team and work for Michael Jordan, be around Michael Jordan, has got to have an impact on . . . free agents," Steiner says.

But business executives like hobnobbing with famous athletes, too. With the possible exception of scandal-plagued Tiger Woods, few athletes are more famous than Jordan. The chance to rub elbows with him could lure sponsors and advertisers.

"Can you imagine a guy like Michael Jordan drops into the meeting during a sales call?" Steiner asks. "He's an extremely influential guy in Corporate America."

But court success won't necessarily make Jordan adept at growing a franchise, managing salary caps and handling agents, says sports economist Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College. "They're very different skills. You not only have to evaluate players, you have to evaluate front office talent," he says. "It's not at all clear that Jordan has those skills."

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