Madison Square Garden Company announced Tuesday that it wants to sell the New York Liberty, one of the founding teams in the WNBA.
In 2010, the team, along with Madison Square Garden itself, the Knicks and Rangers and several other sports and entertainment properties, was spun off from corporate parent Cablevision, becoming The Madison Square Garden Company.
The Liberty sale plans suggest that Dolan is shaking things up at Madison Square Garden after the departure of CEO David "Doc" O'Connor on Monday.
"We have been a strong and vocal advocate for the Liberty and the WNBA since the beginning, " Dolan stated. "As the last original owner, I am proud of how far the league has come, and the role we have played in its growth", MSG executive chairman and chief executive officer James Dolan said in a statement.
After the Liberty are sold, only four of the WNBA's twelve franchises will be owned and operated by National Basketball Association "siblings" - the Indiana Fever (Pacers), Minnesota Lynx (Timberwolves), the Washington Mystics (Wizards) and the Mercury (Suns).
The Liberty have reached the playoffs in 15 of their 21 seasons but have never won a WNBA championship. "This was a hard decision for us, which we made after carefully assessing the needs of our business", Executive Chairman James Dolan said. The Liberty played the Sparks in the WNBA's first game on June 21, 1997 in Los Angeles. It is not clear how Dolan's relationship with Thomas will be affected by today's announcement, or if Thomas will continue in his position under new ownership. "And with a home that is also the world's largest media market, it is expected that new ownership will realize the benefits of having the team remain in NY". The San Antonio Stars were sold to MGM Resorts International and relocated to Las Vegas last month. It has had the best record in the Eastern Conference the past three seasons. Former WNBA player Katie Smith, a Liberty assistant, was moved into the head-coaching role.
Dolan reportedly considered selling the team in 2015 due to lagging attendance and financial concerns, but opted instead to make Isiah Thomas team president.
That franchise will begin play next season and is coached by Bill Laimbeer, who left the Liberty last month. "Under Isiah's leadership, the team has broadened its roster of top sponsors, increased its passionate fanbase, and developed a solid team built for long-term competitiveness".