For anyone following the Atlanta Dream in the off-season, it must have been good news that Kathy Betty found some more investors. What many people might not have realized in the hoopla is that technically, Kathy Betty no longer owns the Atlanta Dream. The Dream is now owned by the Dream Too LLC, a set of initials that will be familiar to any hard-core WNBA follower.
When you think of the list of WNBA owners, it's generally a list of individuals and collective entities. The Mohegan Indian tribe, for example, owns the Connecticut Sun. Carla Christofferson and Kathy Goodman are the joint owners of the Los Angeles Sparks, and the Force 10 Hoops LLC owns the Seattle Storm. Force 10 Hoops LLC now consists of Dawn Trudeau, Lisa Brummel and Ginny Gilder. (Anne Levinson left the group in November.)
So what is a LLC? LLC stands for "Limited Liability Company". Why not just form a corporation or a partnership? The reason that LLCs have become so popular is that they avoid the problem of double taxation. If Force 10 Hoops LLC were a corporation, for example, then the owners end up paying taxes both on the money the LLC earns and on any distribution from the LLC to the owners. With an LLC, one has "flow through" taxation.where all profits flow through to the members but if case of bankruptcy the owners are not liable for the debts of an LLC. (The reason that LLCs are not even more popular is that they are difficult to set up and are more adversely affected by the death or a loss of a member.)
The new Dream Too LLC consists of Betty, Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler. Brock, is the wife of Coca-Cola Enterprises CEO John Brock. Like Kathy Betty, Brock has a strong Georgia Tech connection. Recently, the Brocks committed to fund $3.5 million of a $6-$7 million brand new indoor practice facility for Georgia Tech. John Brock already makes $14 million per year as Coca-Cola CEO, much of which is awarded in stock, and Mary Brock serves on several philanthropic boards in the Atlanta area.
Loeffler is a vice-president of investor relations and corporate communications at Intercontinental Exchange. Among the various things that Intercontinental Exchange trades is energy, and after the collapse of Enron, International Exchange took off in a big way. According to BusinessWeek, Loeffler is married to Jeffrey C. Sprecher, the CEO of International Exchange. Without knowing exactly how wealthy Sprecher is, we can say that he's well off and be done with it. Loeffler herself makes over $400 K a year at ICE and the two of them host charity events and money raisers, including one for potential presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Looking at Loeffner's donations it appears that Loeffler and her husband are right of center.)
In the press conference announcing the new ownership, Loeffler mentioned that she played high school basketball growing up. "If you knew me back then, I was shy, glasses, braces, scrawny," Loeffler said and that high school sports gave her confidence and insight into a different world. "I attribute a lot of the skills I learned to be successful in business to the successes as well as the challenges of being in athletics."
The two of them combined to invest $1 million in the Dream Too LLC according to the Associated Press. Betty will remain the managing partner of the group, acting as the de facto boss of the Dream. It's unknown how much of a stake in the Atlanta Dream the $1 million gives either Brock or Loeffner.
Even though the $1 million donation isn't a lot, observers can't be helped but heartened. It appears that the Brocks and Sprecher/Loeffler are well connected and not just in Atlanta. If power can be measured in who you know and whose resources you can call upon, then the Atlanta Dream has become that much more stable with the addition of two powerful advocates.
In addition, the Dream announced that the lease to Philips Arena has been extended for three more years. How much this means is uncertain, because we know nothing about whether or not better terms or the same terms have been negotiated. With only one year to look at, it seems that Kathy Betty has been more fortunate that previous owner Ron Terwillger. Every Dream can remember when the Dream got booted out of their opening Eastern Conference semi-finals playoff game, exiled to Gwinnett Arena so that Sesame Street Live could play at Philips instead. As Dream COO Toby Wyman said in the press conference, having the lease pinned down provided stability when the Dream sought out new investors.