CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A new era has begun for the Charlotte Hornets, raising hope that one day the struggling franchise might turn things around.
Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall officially acquired the majority stake of the Hornets from six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan on Thursday, bringing new thoughts and ideas on how to rebuild a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs in the last seven seasons.
Plotkin said he and Schnall plan to be “patient” NBA owners, but they are driven to build a winner in Charlotte.
“We think ultimately this is a top-10 or top-15 franchise in the NBA in terms of attractiveness,” Plotkin said. “It’s our job to produce winning basketball. Winning takes a lot of structure and it doesn’t happen overnight. We’ll try to position the business for success over the long term and try to make smart decisions.”
Plotkin said there will be a focus on analytics, player development, strategy and sports performance. A renovated arena and a state-of-the-art practice facility are also in the near future, which Plotkin believes will help in developing and attracting players — and ultimately mean more wins.
Jordan never could build a consistent winner in Charlotte.
During his 13-year tenure as majority owner, the Hornets went 423-600 and never won a playoff series.
Jordan did not attend the news conference, but he said in news release that it was a “tremendous honor” to own the Hornets.
He didn’t give an explanation as to why he sold the franchise.
“As I transition into a minority ownership role, I’m thrilled to be able to pass the reins to two successful, innovative and strategic leaders in Gabe and Rick,” Jordan said. “I know the Hornets organization is in great hands moving forward. I’m excited about the future of the team and will continue to support the organization and the community in my new role in the years ahead.”
Schnall said he’s glad Jordan plans to remain on as a minority owner — and he wants to repay him with a championship.
“He’s the greatest basketball player of all time and he has been an incredible partner to us during this negotiation and he has set this business up for future success,” Schnall said. “He’s not leaving and will be around here for a long time with us as a partner.”
One of the criticisms of Jordan from fans has been his lack of spending in free agency.
Plotkin said the Hornets may need to focus on player development first, while also building a winning culture that will attract big-name free agents down the road.
“It’s a great city, a great climate and the ease of getting around here is wonderful,” Plotkin said. “I think those things will happen. I don’t think there is one route or the other, but I think ultimately player development will be a great focus, and if the opportunity is there for free agency, we will pursue that, too.”
Added Schnall: “If we can create a winning culture that people want to be around with high-character kids on our team who want to be part of it, we should have great success in attracting free agents over time.”
Schnall said he and Plotkin own “similar stakes” in the franchise, but he wouldn’t say who owns more.
They will treat it as an equal partnership.
That means they will rotate the team’s governorship every five years, beginning first with Schnall.
Plotkin and Schnall may not be household names like Jordan, but both have experienced plenty of success in the business world and are huge basketball junkies. Schnall first met Jordan 20 year ago at the former Chicago Bulls star’s fantasy basketball camp, where he forged a relationship with the 14-time All-Star.
Schnall has been a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks and was involved in various aspects of the Hawks’ team-building process as well as the renovations to State Farm Arena. He is co-president of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC, where he has worked for 27 years.
Plotkin, the founder and chief investment officer of Tallwoods Capital LLC, acquired a minority stake in the Hornets in 2019 before purchasing a majority stake.
Both men previously served as alternate governors on the NBA Board of Governors.
The Hornets’ new ownership group also includes Chris Shumway, Dan Sundheim, Ian Loring, Andrew Schwartzberg, Dyal Home Court Partners, North Carolina natives recording artist J. Cole and country music singer-songwriter Eric Church, and several local Charlotte investors, including Amy Levine Dawson and Damian Mills, among others.
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