WNBA Announces Sale of Sparks to Investment Group Led by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter
NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES, Feb. 5, 2014 – The WNBA and NBA Board of Governors have unanimously approved the purchase of the Los Angeles Sparks by an investment group led by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark R. Walter, WNBA President Laurel J. Richie announced today. The investment group includes Dodger co-owners Todd L. Boehly, Robert L. Patton and Stan Kasten. Richie was joined by Johnson at the press event at STAPLES Center.
The franchise will remain in Los Angeles and play at STAPLES Center. The WNBA’s 2014 game and television schedule will also be announced this week.
“We are thrilled to welcome Magic Johnson and Mark Walter to the WNBA,” said Richie. “With their proven track record in the business realm, their commitment to the city of Los Angeles through civic engagement, and their passion for the game of basketball, we look forward to partnering with our new owners to usher in a new era for this iconic team. This is a great day for Los Angeles, the Sparks franchise, its players, and of course, the loyal fans who have been so supportive of the team for 17 seasons.”
“This is a great day for the city of Los Angeles and the Sparks,” said Johnson. “The leaders of this great city came together quickly to keep this franchise right where it belongs—in the city of Angels. Thanks to my sister, Evelyn, playing college basketball, I have a great appreciation of the talented players that represent the WNBA. Our group will now work together to bring our loyal fans another WNBA championship. ”
“Earvin came to me and said we need to help save the Sparks and keep them in Los Angeles,” Walter said. The decision was quite easy for our investment group due to the passion Magic has for this city, these great athletes and our phenomenal fans. This team and its great players should remain a part of the sports fabric of this wonderful city.”
One of the league’s original eight teams, Los Angeles won the WNBA championship in 2001 and 2002, and is the last team to have earned titles in consecutive seasons. Los Angeles advanced to the Western Conference Finals in three of the past six seasons, most recently in 2012. A trio of WNBA All-Stars – forward/center Candace Parker, forward Nneka Ogwumike, and guard Kristi Toliver – headline a talented roster. The reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player, Parker also earned the honor during her rookie season in 2008. Ogwumike took home the WNBA Rookie of the Year award in 2012, the same year Toliver earned the WNBA Most Improved Player award.
About Mark Walter:
Mr. Walter is Chairman and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is a controlling shareholder of Delaware Life Holdings. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Guggenheim Capital, LLC. Mr. Walter serves as a trustee or director of several organizations including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Security Benefit Corporation and the EquiTrust Life holding company. Mr. Walter grew up in Iowa and received a B.S. from Creighton University and a J.D. from Northwestern University.
About Earvin “Magic” Johnson:
An NBA legend and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as well as a noted entrepreneur, philanthropist, and motivational speaker, Johnson serves as part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and, most notably, as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE). Following his playing career – during which he amassed a national championship at Michigan State (1979), five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988), and earned the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award three times – Johnson began a meteoric rise through the business world. The driving force behind MJE, whose multiple business entities and partnerships provide products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities through strategic alliances, investments, consulting and endorsements, Johnson and MJE have partnered with or invested in the likes of Sony Retail Entertainment, Starbucks, Founders National Bank, Burger King, Cadbury Schweppes, Aetna, Best Buy, and AON among others. After divesting himself of his interest in Starbucks and the Los Angeles Lakers beginning in 2010, Johnson invested in Vibe Holdings, LLC, becoming Chairman and focusing on Vibe (the multi-cultural media company that houses the Vibe, Uptown, and Soul Train brands), and in 2012 launched the ASPiRE television network and notably joined Guggenheim Baseball Management to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club. He also serves as Chairman and Founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation, one of the most recognizable philanthropic organizations around the world.
About the WNBA:
The WNBA – which features 12 teams and is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world – is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. The league, which counts Boost Mobile as its leaguewide marquee partner, will tip off its 18th season in May 2014. Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, increase breast and women’s health awareness, support youth and family development, and focus on education. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.
Dina Skokos, WNBA Communications, 212-407-8840, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ron Howard, WNBA Communications, 212-407-8641, email@example.com