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Nuggets Become Minority-Owned Team : Purchase by 2 Chicago Businessmen Is a First for Major Leagues

From Associated Press

The NBA’s Denver Nuggets became the first minority-owned major league franchise when they were purchased by Bertram M. Lee and Peter C. B. Bynoe for $65 million.

Sidney Shlenker, the current owner, confirmed the sale to Lee, 50, and Bynoe, 38, two black Chicago businessmen.

At a press conference today, Lee announced that David Checketts, former executive with the Utah Jazz, will become the Nuggets’ president and be involved in the day-to-day business operation of the club.

Pete Babcock, who had held the position of president and general manager since October, 1987, retains his role of general manager, in which he will continue to handle the basketball phase of the franchise.

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Checketts also becomes a minority owner, but most of the franchise belongs to Lee and Bynoe.

“Peter and I are the largest shareholders, the controlling shareholders,” Lee said. “There will be some other people involved, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to give the ownership breakdown.”

Lee said that the Nuggets will remain in Denver and that no other personnel changes are planned.

Lee, who previously pursued purchasing the San Antonio Spurs, owns television and radio stations in Washington, D.C.; Utah, and Nebraska. He is also chairman of BML Associates Inc., an investment holding company in Boston.

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Bynoe is the $125,000-a-year executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which is responsible for building the new home of the Chicago White Sox.

“We look on this as a business proposition, but we’re also sports fans,” Lee said. “We see this as a challenge. We have the opportunity to build a franchise, which has seen both good and bad times but which has a solid foundation.”

Lee noted that Shlenker bought the franchise in 1985 for $19 million and, less the cost of improvements, approximately doubled his money with the sale to Lee’s group.

“The real reason we bought this team is Sidney assured us that Doug (Coach Doug Moe) had doubled what every owner had made from when he bought the team until when he sold it,” Lee joked. “I asked Doug if he would continue that tradition and how long would it take. He said it would take a millennium. So we’ll be here for a millennium--or until Doug doubles what we paid for it.”

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