February 27, 2021
Atlanta Dream sold to Larry Gottesdiener; Renee Montgomery in ownership group
After ten years of owning the franchise, Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler completed the sale Friday
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
After ten years of being owned by Dream Too, LLC, Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler’s ownership group, the Atlanta Dream have been sold.
Larry Gottesdiener, chairman of the real estate investment group Northland, is now the majority owner of the franchise. Northland’s president, Suzanne Abair, and former Dream player Renee Montgomery round out the ownership group. Gottesdiener declined to comment Friday on the specific percentages but said that Abair and Montgomery will be in charge of most of the day-to-day operations. Montgomery is now the first former player to be a WNBA team owner and executive.
The sale of the Dream franchise comes after months of speculation and rumors about what the WNBA was going to do about Loeffler. Ever since the former senator sent a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert over the summer stating her distaste for the league’s social justice mission, Loeffler and the WNBA have been at odds.
Many players were vocal in their desire for Loeffler to no longer be a team owner, but Engelbert said the league was not going to force Loeffler to sell. Numerous people, including LeBron James, indicated a desire to purchase the team, and in January, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a sale was near. On Friday, the sale became official and Loeffler’s tenure as a WNBA owner came to an end.
“Last year, 2020, the players of the Dream refused to just shut up and dribble,” Gottesdiener said in a teleconference on Friday. “They found their collective voice and the world listened. We are inspired by these brave women who navigated sports and activism in the midst of a pandemic, and we want to celebrate and honor them. We are particularly proud to be stewards of this team, in this city, at this time.”
Gottesdiener has made attempts to purchase teams in the past, most notably the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006. That bid fell through when the NHL said he wouldn’t be allowed to move the franchise to Hartford, Conn.
Purchasing the Dream is Gottesdiener’s first major move to support women’s sports, but he said Friday that he’s been a fan of women’s basketball for decades. He specifically mentioned the 1995 UConn team and the WNBA’s “We Got Next” campaign in 1997 as touchpoints on his women’s basketball journey.
“I think what really got me to become a supporter and hopefully a champion of women’s sports was having a really gritty first-born daughter who was so pissed off that the high school team didn’t have a girls’ wrestling team that she went out and competed on the men’s team,” Gottesdiener said. “And I think I’d finally add that I’m surrounded by really strong, thoughtful women in my personal and professional life, present company included – I’m referring to Renee and Suzanne.
“I believe in them. I support them whenever they ask for support, and I think this was just an opportunity to expand that support for women’s sports generally but women’s basketball particularly. It’s an amazing game, and I think the next 25 years of the W are going to be explosive.”
Now that Loeffler is out of the league, the next big question facing the Dream is whether the team will remain in Atlanta. Gottesdiener unequivocally stated that he has no plans to move the franchise, and though he doesn’t maintain a residence in Atlanta, Montgomery calls Atlanta home and will be the day-to-day face for ownership in town.
“This is an Atlanta asset,” Gottesdiener said. “We’re stewards of it. We hope to build something that all of Atlanta will be proud of. On the business side, Atlanta has been a target market for us (at Northland) and it became a target market for us about five years ago on the real estate side, and we think it’s a really dynamic, vibrant city. We’re excited to be here, and this is an Atlanta asset. The Dream isn’t going anywhere.”
Added Montgomery: “I’m really excited because we need to be a part of the Atlanta fabric, of the Atlanta culture, and so I’m going to be trying to connect the two with the help, like I said, of Suzanne and Larry and all the other staff that work at the Dream, and that’s going to be one of the things that we’re going to try to do right away.”
Atlanta is notoriously a city of transplants, which should mean that there is a large group of sports fans who don’t have a hometown WNBA team to support and can become Dream fans. A young, progressive city should be able to throw itself behind a young, progressive league, but tapping into that demographic will take work by the new Dream ownership. Montgomery is well positioned to do just that.
“I want the players to feel like, ‘Okay, this is how I want to be seen,’” Montgomery said. “And then the same for the city of Atlanta: Rich in culture, rich in everything. And so I want to embrace that and have the players embrace that and be a part of that culture and be excited to be a part of that, whether it’s in the music culture or the business culture or just women empowerment. We have everything here in Atlanta. So the plan is that we just tap into that.”