WNBA's Atlanta Dream Sold to Investor Group Including Renee Montgomery

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The WNBA has approved the sale of the Atlanta Dream to a three-member ownership group that includes two-time WNBA champion Renee Montgomery.

Larry Gottesdiener, chairman of Northland, a national real estate firm, and Northland president and COO Suzanne Abair are the other members of the group. 

The team was previously co-owned by Mary Brock and former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler. 

"My Dream has come true," Montgomery said in a statement. "Breaking barriers for minorities and women by being the first former WNBA player to have both a stake in ownership and a leadership role with the team is an opportunity that I take very seriously. I invite you to join me as the Dream builds momentum in Atlanta!"

Montgomery will become the first former player to become both an owner and executive of a WNBA team. Throughout her career, she played for the Sun, Storm and Lynx, with whom she won both her titles, before joining the Dream in 2018. Montgomery sat out the 2020 season to focus on social justice issues and recently announced her retirement from the league after 11 seasons. 

The Dream franchise has been in turmoil over the past year following Loeffler's critical comments about the Black Lives Matter movement. 

"There is no room for racism in this country. We cannot have it," Loeffler, a Republican, said in July. "But there is an organization, different from the saying, an organization called Black Lives Matter founded on Marxist principles. Marxism supports socialism."

Before the WNBA season started this past summer, she wrote a letter to commissioner Cathy Engelbert objecting to the WNBA's plans to embrace and promote the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The player's union called for Loeffler's removal, but Engelbert said Loeffler would not be forced to sell, stating that Loeffler is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the team. 

"She's got to go," Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud, who took the 2020 season off to focus on social justice efforts, told Sports Illustrated's Julie Kliegman. "It's very plain and simple."

Loeffler even introduced a bill that would effectively ban trans girls and women from playing publicly funded sports, potentially affecting thousands of youth, high school and collegiate athletes nationwide.

In an effort to stand up against Loeffler, Dream players openly supported her opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, who defeated Loeffler in a runoff election for her Senate seat in early January

After the election concluded, rumors surfaced in mid-January over whether the franchise would be sold. Previously Loeffler had been firm in her opinion of not selling her portion (49%). 

LeBron James even floated the idea of starting an ownership group for the Dream in a tweet on Jan. 6.

A spokesperson for the NBA, the parent company of the WNBA, told Washington Post columnist Kevin B. Blackistone in mid-January that "the league expected Loeffler to be out of its ranks soon," and that Brock "was expected to sell her half share." 

A WNBA spokesperson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "As it relates to the Atlanta Dream, we understand a sale of the franchise is close to being finalized. Once the sale negotiation is concluded, additional information will be provided."

ESPN reported in January that as many as five bidders expressed interest in purchasing the team and that Loeffler was not expected to have any association with the franchise post-sale. It was reportedly expected that the new owner would have majority ownership, and it was unclear what role the Brock family would have (if any) in the organization. 

The team is slated to play the 2021 season in College Park after last season's "Wubble" was created in Florida due to the COVID-19 pandemic.