Kelly Loeffler no longer a WNBA team owner as NBA approves sale of Atlanta Dream

Renee Montgomery of the Atlanta Dream.

Adam Pantozzi | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

Kelly Loeffler is no longer a WNBA team owner.

The Women’s National Basketball Association announced Friday that it and the NBA board of governors have unanimously approved the sale of the Atlanta Dream to Larry Gottesdiener, chairman of real estate firm Northland.

Other team investors include former Dream star Renee Montgomery and Northland president and COO Suzanne Abair.

“With the unanimous WNBA and NBA votes, today marks a new beginning for the Atlanta Dream organization and we are very pleased to welcome Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair to the WNBA,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a statement. “I admire their passion for women’s basketball, but more importantly, have been impressed with their values.”

On a media call discussing the sale, Engelbert said Montgomery would be a huge “asset” to the new owners. She labeled Montgomery as a “trailblazer who has made a major impact both in the game and beyond.” Montgomery, 34, played 11 years in the WNBA, including two seasons with the franchise (2018-19) before retiring on Feb. 9.

“I want to continue to grow and we’re going to continue to grow the momentum in Atlanta for Atlanta Dream,” said Montgomery on the call.

Terms of the sale were not made available.

But painting a picture of WNBA team valuations, sports bankers estimate the 2019 sale of a bigger market team – the New York Liberty – sold in the $10 million to $14 million range. Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai now owns the team.

Asked by CNBC to confirm if sale fell that price range, Engelbert said terms were “confidential” but added “we’re looking forward to continuing the transformation around all the elements of the WNBA so that we can add value and valuation to all of our franchises going forward.”

Atlanta owner Kelly Loeffler (right) talks with Dream General Manager Chris Sienko (left) during the WNBA game between the Las Vegas Aces and the Atlanta Dream on September 5th, 2019 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA.

Rich von Biberstein | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

Loeffler, the former Georgia U.S. Senator lost her senate seat in January’s Georgia runoff election. She made the headlines in July 2020 after she opposed the team’s support of social justice for Black people following several high-profile shootings involving police.

The Dream wore jerseys that supported the Black Lives Matter movement and remembering Breonna Taylor,  who was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, last March. Loeffler wrote Engelbert to oppose supporting the movement and express her support for players to wear the American flag on jerseys.

After the letter, Dream players used their platform to support her opponent, now U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock. Players wore “Vote Warnock” shirts, which reportedly raised over $236,000 for his campaign.

On Jan. 19, reports surfaced a sale of the Dream was being finalized. In 2011, Loeffler and Mary Brock took over the majority stake in the Dream, after then-owner Kathy Betty departed the ownership group in 2011.

“That’s in the past now, we’re looking towards the future, and the new beginning for the Dream players and quite frankly, the WNBA,” Engelbert said.

The Dream finished 7-15 last season and did not make the playoffs. The team will select third in the 2021 WNBA Draft.

“It is a privilege to join a team of inspiring women who strive for excellence on the court and equity off the court,” said Gottesdiener. “I would like to express my gratitude to Commissioner Engelbert, Commissioner (Adam) Silver, and the WNBA and NBA Boards of Governors for the opportunity.”

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