Talks between former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan and the Washington Wizards' minority ownership group so far have failed to produce an acceptable compromise about how much equity in the team Jordan would receive and at what price, if any, a league source said today. Negotiations are ongoing.
NBA officials, including Commissioner David Stern, are aware of the negotiations, another league source said. It is unknown if league officials are involved in the discussions.
Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin has reached an agreement in principle with Jordan that would give Jordan control of the team's basketball operations, a league source confirmed Thursday.
In addition to Jordan's desire for an ownership stake in the team, conflict-of-interest concerns related to Jordan's proposed management role and his relationship with player agent David Falk also are being addressed. Falk represents Jordan and several of the NBA's elite players.
"That's a concern," an NBA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said today. "That's one of the many things we have to work through on this matter."
Falk declined to comment.
Meanwhile, word of the agreement in principle between Pollin and Jordan even became a topic worthy of comment from the White House today.
President Clinton said he would love to see Jordan come to Washington.
"It will be fun," he said. "That's a no-brainer."
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said earlier in the day that the prospect of Jordan working for the Wizards was "exciting," and said it could help in the effort to revitalize the city.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams said Jordan would "electrify" the District if he joins the Wizards as head of basketball operations.
"Wouldn't that be wonderful, wouldn't that be great?" the mayor said. The mayor said that he believes Jordan would "command the respect" of players and galvanize the team, which could result in improved performance.
Williams said Jordan would bring "energy and excitement" to the city. He said Jordan is a "leader," and that he is excited about the idea of Jordan being an active member of the community.
The mayor said he met Jordan a year ago at a news conference. Williams joked that the extra police officers and security who arrived were not there to protect him, but to see Jordan.
Jordan is negotiating for a stake in the Wizards with the team's minority ownership group, headed by America Online Inc. executive Ted Leonsis.
Leonsis's group owns the NHL's Washington Capitals and 44 percent of Washington Sports and Entertainment, which has the Wizards, the WNBA's Washington Mystics, MCI Center, US Airways Arena and Ticketmaster locations in Washington and Baltimore.
It is unknown how great a percentage of the team Jordan wants now or in the future, or how much the minority ownership group is willing to relinquish.
Leonsis's group has been promised the first right of refusal when Pollin sells his interests. Pollin, 76, has said does not plan to sell for years.
A representative for Leonsis said today Leonsis would not comment. The Wizards also declined to comment. Jordan was unavailable to comment.
Staff writers Michael H. Cottman and Charles Babington contributed to this report.