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MAGIC JOHNSON PLANS TO HELP REBUILD THE CITY OF DETROIT

MAGIC JOHNSON PLANS TO HELP REBUILD THE CITY OF DETROIT

(photo by Carlos Osorio, Associated Press)                           

Hall-of-Fame basketball player turned businessman Earvin "Magic" Johnson said Thursday joining a Detroit venture capital company that includes Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert is "the right opportunity" to invest in the largest city of his home state.

The ex-NBA star and Lansing native will be a general partner in Detroit Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital firm launched by Gilbert and two others last year that targets technology startups and growing them in Detroit. Johnson said he's "writing a big check" to the firm worth millions, but declined to say exactly how much.

"I tried to do businesses here with the mayors before to bring my theaters here -- it didn't work out," Johnson told reporters after a news conference in Detroit. "Now, with Dan, I've now found the right opportunity ... and the right partner."

Johnson said he's also looking at buying downtown Detroit buildings with Gilbert through Johnson's real estate fund, which he said has $1 billion in cash.

"This is a tough time for the state, but we're going to make a comeback ... one investment at a time," Johnson said.

Gilbert, who also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, has recently bought or plans to buy several properties in Detroit's main business district. Last year, he moved the headquarters of his online retail mortgage lender downtown from a suburb and is actively courting others to follow suit.

Johnson said he will spend a good deal of time in Detroit, but trusts leaving the daily operations to Gilbert and the firm's two other partners, chief executive Josh Linkner and Brian Hermelin.

MORE INFORMATION ON DETROIT VENTURE PARTNERS

After speaking, Johnson introduced Mayor Dave Bing, another professional basketball Hall of Famer who started his own successful automotive companies after retiring from the hardcourt. Johnson choked up as he described Bing as his "mentor, hero" and "friend." (more)

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Article by JEFF KAROUB, AP via Bloomberg Businessweek | Read full article here

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