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The WNBA franchise was on the brink of being relocated before Magic Johnson and Mark Walter stepped in to save the team. Ted Chen reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Wednesday February 5, 2014.
Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Mark Walter have teammed up to buy the Los Angeles Sparks Wednesday. The move will keep the franchise from relocating after previous owner Paula Madison put the team up for sale last month.
"We're totally thrilled," WNBA President Laurel Richie told The Associated Press. "When Magic chooses to enter into a partnership with a WNBA team, that's a great thing. He's a legend within basketball. He's very knowledgeable about the game. He's a larger-than-life personality. He's an extremely successful business man. He cares about the community the way that the WNBA does."
Johnson and Walter partnered with a group of investors to buy baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 for a record $2.15 billion. It will be the same group owning the Sparks, minus Peter Guber, who owns a stake in the NBA's Golden State Warriors.
Richie said Walte approached the WNBA about buying the Sparks a few weeks ago. Walter and Johnson discussed the idea on a cross-country flight and by the time they landed on the West Coast they had decided they wanted to own the Sparks.
"I love basketball and I love women's basketball," Johnson said. "So this was really simple and easy for Mark and I. It's funny we were on a plane and turned to each other and said lets buy the Sparks and I said okay let's go do it."
Madison informed the league in late December that she wouldn't be able to run the team anymore. She told The Associated Press that her family had lost $12 million, including $1.4 million last season, operating the franchise since buying it from the Buss family in 2007.
Johnson was a part owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers for a decade before selling his share in 2011.
While the franchise hasn't been successful financially, the Sparks have been one of the WNBA's best teams on the court and have led the league in attendance the past two seasons.
"The fan base is really solid," Johnson said. "We want to grow it but we feel good about it."
They Sparks won titles in 2001 and 2002 and made it to the playoffs in five of the past six seasons. They were knocked out in the opening round by Phoenix last season.
The WNBA's 2014 game and television schedule will be announced later this week.