Larry Gottesdiener, chairman of real estate private equity firm Northland; former Dream star Renee Montgomery; and Northland president and COO Suzanne Abair have purchased the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream from co-owners Mary Brock and former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, the team announced Friday. The WNBA and NBA Boards of Governors unanimously approved the sale to the three-member investor group.
Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.
“It is a privilege to join a team of inspiring women who strive for excellence on the court and equity off the court,” Gottesdiener, the franchise’s new majority owner, said in a release. “I would like to express my gratitude to [WNBA] Commissioner [Cathy] Engelbert, [NBA] Commissioner [Adam] Silver, and the WNBA and NBA Boards of Governors for the opportunity.”
Montgomery is the first former player to become both an owner and executive of a WNBA team. The two-time WNBA champion sat out the 2020 season to focus on social justice issues and announced her retirement from the league earlier this month after 11 seasons.
Brock, wife of former Coca-Cola chairman and CEO John Brock, and Loeffler purchased the team in 2011 by way of Dream Too LLC. The pair were the only all-female ownership group in Atlanta professional sports during their decade-long tenure atop the franchise.
Sources told Sportico that Brock, the majority owner, initiated sale negotiations in January. As part of the deal, Loeffler—who held onto her 49% stake during a tumultuous 2020—also sold.
“With the unanimous WNBA and NBA votes, today marks a new beginning for the Atlanta Dream organization, and we are very pleased to welcome Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair to the WNBA,” Engelbert said in a release. “I admire their passion for women’s basketball, but more importantly, have been impressed with their values. I am also thrilled that former WNBA star Renee Montgomery will be joining the ownership group as an investor and executive for the team. Renee is a trailblazer who has made a major impact both in the game and beyond.”
Loeffler, the former Intercontinental Exchange executive and Bakkt CEO, purchased a minority stake in the team in 2010 and upped her investment in 2011 with Brock. Calls for her removal started this summer amid her Senate reelection campaign.
The Republican Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Johnny Isakson by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in December 2019, criticized the WNBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice causes during its 2020 season in a letter to Engelbert. Players throughout the league, including new owner Montgomery, and the WNBA’s players’ union took issue with Loeffler’s stances, calling for her removal as Dream owner.
Those opposed to Loeffler’s continued ownership compared it to the ousting of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in 2014 after the release of voice recordings capturing him making racist comments. Speculation circulated about possible buyers for the team, but Engelbert maintained that the league would not push Loeffler out because of her politics.
As a result, WNBA players throughout the league actively campaigned for Loeffler’s main Democratic opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, in the November special election. Warnock defeated Loeffler in the January runoff, and sale negotiations started soon thereafter, according to a source familiar with the talks who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The Brocks are also active supporters of Georgia Tech, John’s alma mater, and its athletic department, serving as the major donors behind the school’s “John and Mary Brock Football Facility.”