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Magic Johnson and 6 Other Former Athletes Who Bought Professional Sports Teams [VIDEOS]

Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, John Elway
Andy Kropa / Jonathan Daniel / Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

Magic Johnson and his group of investors were awarded the struggling Los Angeles Dodgers late Tuesday night. It’s the latest business investment in Johnson’s post-retirement portfolio and comes at a pretty hefty sum of $2 billion.

It’s the most anyone has ever spent on a professional American sports franchise. But Johnson isn’t the first ex-athlete to return to sports in the owner’s seat. Here’s a look at six others who invested back into the world of professional sports:

MICHAEL JORDAN

He was the best on the court, but Michael Jordan hasn’t proven any such success as owner of the Charlotte Bobcats since purchasing a majority share in 2010. Jordan had already been a minority owner of the team for years prior and he oversaw basketball operations for the team. Even with the Bobcats’ futility — they’re currently the league’s worst team — Jordan has his backers. Charles Barkley recently said that Jordan has done a “great job” with the organization.

WAYNE GRETZKY

The Phoenix Coyotes are embroiled in a dreadful situation without an owner that it’s easy to forget that ‘The Great One’ was once part owner of the club. The financial situation grew so dire that in 2009 Gretzky also stepped down as coach of the team. When the league took hold of the franchise after the Coyotes filed for banruptcy, it pinned the blame on the owners, suing former owner Jerry Moyes for $61 million for mismanagement. Gretzky was also reportedly owed $8 million for his work as coach.

MARIO LEMIEUX

When the Penguins were facing hard financial times in 1999, their savior, Lemieux, returned to them. “The thought surfaced that the team was going to be liquidated or leave town,” said Lemieux. “I didn’t want that to happen. We decided that I would buy it myself with some investors in town.” What made this move so revolutionary, though, was how it was arranged. Lemieux was owed $26 million by the team, and as part of the deal that debt got waived. What a smart investment that turned out to be — the Penguins are among the league’s best teams now.

MARK RICHARDSON

The Richardson family was the original owner of the Panthers dating back to the early ’90s when they helped get the team off the ground. But the elder Richardson opted to let go of his two sons Jon and Mark (who played for the 1981 Clemson Tigers national championship team) in 2009 and to head in a different direction. The brothers stayed on as members of the Panthers Partnership Group. Mark’s innovation stood out to one blogger: “His integrated approach to marketing also enabled the Panthers to be one of the few teams to bring their broadcasting rights in house.”

JOHN ELWAY

Elway courted controversy when owner Pat Bowlen tried to sell 10 percent of the franchise to the former QB after he retired. A judge in 2006 determined that Bowlen was within his rights with this transaction. Former owner Edgar Kaiser cried foul, saying that he had first refusal on any sale. Elway bought one-third of the now-defunct Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League back in 2003. It’s with the Broncos, though, that Elway has stayed. He remains a central figure in the Denver organization as an executive and reportedly played a major role in landing Peyton Manning earlier this month.

CAL RIPKEN

With the Orioles reportedly up for sale, Ripken’s name is swirling around as a potential owner. “I’ve had ongoing discussions with the Orioles and Mr. Angelos for years,” Ripken said in 2011, referring to current owner Peter Angelos It wouldn’t be Ripken’s first venture into this line of business — for years he’s owned the minor league Class A Aberdeen (Md.) Ironbirds. In 2005 he expanded his empire to include the Augusta Green Jackets in Georgia. In addition, he runs business operations for the Tampa Bay Rays’ spring training site. Could the Orioles be next?

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