LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles Sparks CEO Paula Madison said it’s “a sad time” for her family after her company announced Thursday it was seeking a buyer for the professional women’s basketball team.
Owners of the team notified the WNBA on Dec. 16 they were seeking new ownership, citing multi-million-dollar annual losses.
“This is a sad time for my family because we want LA to have a thriving championship women’s basketball team and, most importantly, we had hoped to continue employing these great behind-the-scenes employees who worked tirelessly on behalf of women’s basketball,” Madison said in a statement.
The Sparks, who won championship titles in 2001 and 2002, has been a WNBA franchise since the league began in 1997 and was under its third management. Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss sold the team in 2006 to Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson, who became minority owners when Madison became chairman in 2007 after her family-owned company, Williams Group Holdings LLC, became majority owner.
According to Madison, WGH has invested nearly $12 million in the team, which has never been profitable and was forecast to lose close to $1 million in 2014.
“Now, almost seven years later, we’re still not profitable, even though we have consistent attendance, just not lucrative enough to support the business,” she said. “No investors have ever received any profits. We never took any salary.”
WGH says it’s complying with the WNBA Operating Agreement, which allows the company to speak only with NBA franchises in Los Angeles.
According to league rules, talks with franchise owners outside of LA have to be conducted only within the league.
Madison said she told WNBA President Laurel Richie she had spoken with potential buyers in LA and elsewhere in hopes of having new ownership before the 2014 season begins in May.
“We have had conversations with serious and viable possible owners, but no offers have been made,” she said.
Meantime, Richie has acknowledged half of the teams in the league were also in the red.
Asked if women’s basketball was a viable business, Madison said, “This is a team and this is a league that I think is absolutely on the verge. I’m heartbroken that at this point we can’t hang in there.”