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Charlotte

For team to win, he must get in the game 

Michael Jordan gained fame on the basketball court but earned most of his fortune — estimated at $800 million during the course of his career — off of it. Working with Nike, Hanes, McDonald’s and other brands, he proved his ability to move products for other people. Now he’s pitching a product of his own.

In March, Jordan acquired an 80% stake in the Charlotte Bobcats from billionaire Bob Johnson, founder of the Black Entertainment Television network. He bought low — the National Basketball Association values the franchise at $275 million, $25 million less than Johnson paid for it seven years ago — and the team is on the rise, making its first trip to the playoffs this season. Average attendance at home games grew as it fell in most NBA cities. That gives Jordan something to build on, but he must learn from the mistakes made by Johnson, who failed to get the local business community completely on his team. The Washington, D.C., resident never shook his image as a tight-fisted absentee owner. After unloading the Bobcats, he unloaded on the Queen City, calling it arrogant, incestuous and lacking in efforts to help African-American small businesses.

Jordan was born in Brooklyn and lives in Chicago, but his Tar Heel bona fides are hard to beat — a high-school star in Wilmington who went to Carolina and hit the shot that won a national championship in 1982. He says he’ll buy a home in Charlotte and spend more time there, but how much will be enough? After all, he had been a minority owner and head of basketball operations since 2006.

For the team to turn on-court progress into financial success, Jordan needs to take control and score with sponsors as successfully as he did with the basketball as a player for the Chicago Bulls. “You don’t just market a contract, sign it and put up some signage, but you’re constantly going back to your sponsors asking what the team can do to make the relationship between the sponsor and the team more beneficial,” says Marc Ganis, president of Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based consultancy.

At his coming-out party as majority owner, Jordan declared himself ready for the challenge. “I’ve done commercials. I’ve done everything. I’ve been connected with corporate America. I’ve been involved. I’ve been asked to speak to corporate people, to charities — all the things that [team president] Fred [Whitfield] is probably going to ask me within the next six months to be involved in.”

Ganis says Jordan can help Charlotte regain the magic it had when its previous NBA team, the Hornets, routinely led the league in attendance. “He’s got to convince the sponsors that he can get the community on board and that the Bobcats will be a very sponsor-friendly organization. There is no one else who can do it.”


CHARLOTTEHewitt Associates plans to add 463 jobs within three years. The Lincolnshire, Ill.-based human-resources consultant already employs about 23,000 workers in more than 30 countries, including 534 here. The new jobs will pay an average of $43,600 a year; the Mecklenburg County average was $45,722 last year.

CLAREMONTPierre Foods will spend $16.8 million to expand its plant and add 500 jobs within three years, bringing local employment to more than 1,200. The Cincinnati-based company makes frozen sandwiches. The new jobs will pay an average of $26,467 a year; the Catawba County average was $35,169 last year.

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte metro area is attracting fewer newcomers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. During the 12 months that ended in July, net migration to the metro — which covers six counties, including one in South Carolina — was 38% lower than the previous year. Experts blame the economy and say the drop is probably temporary.

CHARLOTTE — Former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis received $83 million in pension benefits, stock and other compensation after retiring last year. Pension benefits accounted for $57 million. He didn’t receive a salary last year and agreed to forego a bonus at the request of federal pay czar Kenneth Feinberg.

MOORESVILLE — Hardware retailer Lowe’s hopes to cut health-care expenses by sending full-time employees and dependents to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio if they need heart surgery. The company will pay the full cost, including travel and living expenses for the patient and a companion. It didn’t say how much it will save.

GASTONIACitizens South Banking bought Georgia-based Bank of Hiawassee in a deal brokered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Terms weren’t disclosed. The company acquired five branches and about $300 million in assets, bringing total assets to about $1.1 billion.

CONCORD — Coca-Cola will continue to sponsor the 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway through at least 2015. Terms were not disclosed. The deal bolsters Speedway Motorsports, which owns the track. Lowe’s did not renew its contract for the speedway’s naming rights at the end of 2009, and the company lost $10.3 million last year, compared with an $80 million profit in 2008.

SALISBURYHNI will close its Maxon Furniture factory here by the end of the year, putting 132 out of work. The layoffs will begin this month. The Muscatine, Iowa-based company says sales of its office furniture are down more than 35%

HICKORYTurbotech Products plans to move most of its manufacturing here within three years. The Windsor, Conn.-based company, which makes pipes and tubing, will add 73 local jobs, giving it about 90.