Forbes: Bobcats can make MJ very wealthy

Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes does a lot of the work behind the magazine's various sports rankings. Insiders howl about this or that fine point whenever any outsider values sports franchises, and these transactions may be too complicated for outsiders to track accurately. But for the record, Badenhausen cites data that Jordan Brand shoes have a near-monopoly on the basketball shoe market (excluding Nike, just the Jordan brand has nearly 24 times more sales than adidas, reportedly).

And yet, of all the elements in Jordan's financial empire, Badenhausen says the Bobcats -- under a new, more owner-friendly CBA -- may be the key to Jordan's wealth.

Forbes estimated Jordan’s net worth at $500 million last year as part of our annual Forbes 400. His Nike checks will keep that figure climbing, but the quickest way for Jordan to reach billionaire status is through his ownership of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Jordan bought a minority share of the Bobcats in 2006, but raised his stake to 80% last year replacing Bob Johnson as the owner in charge. Jordan inherited $150 million in debt on the team, but put up little equity to take control of the franchise. The grossed up value of the deal was $175 million according to sources, compared to the $300 million Johnson paid for the expansion franchise in 2003.

Jordan agreed to supply $100 million in working capital as part of the deal as the Bobcats have been losing in the neighborhood of $20 million a year. Yet $175 million for an NBA team is a steal particularly if owners get the concessions they want from players to settle the current lockout.

Jordan is pushing hard for more revenue sharing among teams which would certainly help the value of the Bobcats. He was fined $100,000 by the NBA this month for speaking publicly about the collective bargaining agreement currently under negotiation.

NBA owners are assured of a better deal under the new CBA than their old deal with the players. The question is how much better and how much richer it will make Jordan.