Sparks purchased from Buss for $10 million

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Sparks were sold for $10
million Thursday to an investment group led by two of the team's
longtime season-ticket holders.

Kathy Goodman, a high school English and social studies teacher,
and Carla Christofferson, an attorney and former Miss North Dakota,
are the new majority owners in Gemini Basketball Holdings.

"I'm probably the most excited of anybody," center Lisa Leslie
said. "When I found out it was two women, it was really empowering
to me."

The Sparks are the fourth WBNA team to have independent
ownership, along with the Connecticut Sun, Washington Mystics and
Chicago Sky. The sale was unanimously approved by the league's
Board of Governors, WNBA president Donna Orender said.

One of the WNBA's eight original teams, the Sparks were sold by
Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers' owner whose son, Johnny, was
Sparks president.

"This is about as exciting as I thought it might be," Goodman
joked at an outdoor news conference with the Los Angeles skyline as

She thanked her students from HighTechHigh-LA, a charter school
in Van Nuys, who joined her for the announcement.

"They wanted to stay back and discuss 'The Scarlet Letter,'"
she said.

The team will continue to play at Staples Center, where
attendance has dropped in recent years.

"It's important for the game to be an event they want to come
to, so they don't miss a game," Christofferson said. "It's not
NBA-lite. People are coming for great basketball and role models."

The women, though, offered no concrete examples of how they'll
attract more fans to the team's summer schedule.

"It's about creating excitement," Goodman said. "If you're
excited about doing something, you come out and do it. There's
really no reason people won't come out and watch the Sparks."

At least for next season, Goodman and Christofferson won't have
the services of three-time league MVP Leslie. She is pregnant with
her first child, due in June, according to husband Michael

"I will be cheering my teammates on," said Leslie, who plans
to return for the 2008 season and try for a spot on the U.S.
Olympic team.

The 43-year-old Goodman attended the first Sparks game on June
21, 1997, at the Forum in Inglewood. Christofferson, 39, has been a
season-ticket holder since 1999.

"I've missed fewer Sparks' games than family birthdays," said
Goodman, a former lawyer and Harvard undergraduate who closed the
deal through phone calls made during her free period at school.

The women met when Goodman's former company that produced and
financed movies was being sued and Christofferson represented her.
They became friends and discovered that each had Sparks season
tickets. They had their seats relocated to be near each other.

"We had an opinion about everything and we knew everything,"
Goodman said. "Every conversation between Carla and I started, 'If
we owned this team.'"

They approached the Buss family about selling the team, which
won WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002.

"We went through the family list of who wanted to take over the
Sparks, and no one did," Johnny Buss said. "They stepped up as I
was stepping down. There's no doubt they'll continue the legacy."

Buss, who said he'll still attend games, is getting into
television production. "I'm trying to stay out of sports," he

Before becoming a teacher, Goodman spent five years as president
of Intermedia Films, an independent production company she
co-founded that produced such films as "The Wedding Planner" and
"Sliding Doors."

Christofferson is a partner in the Los Angeles firm of O'Melveny
& Myers, specializing in entertainment and commercial litigation. A
Yale Law School graduate, she was Miss North Dakota in 1989. She
played high school basketball in her hometown of Tolna, N.D.,
population 240.