Basketball operations went unscathed, but the rest of the Charlotte Bobcats organization went through a significant work-force reduction Friday.
Bobcats management declined to specify how many employees were laid off, but a source with close ties to the team pegged the number at roughly 35.
Team president Fred Whitfield said the team hired a consultant to compare the Bobcats' work force with those from NBA teams in comparable markets, such as Indianapolis, Memphis and Milwaukee. These cuts were in part a result of that study.
“We looked at every piece of our business operation,'' Whitfield said Friday afternoon.
Whitfield said the team provided severance packages and is in contact with NASCAR and Fox Sports Net, looking to help displaced employees find other positions.
The Bobcats took these steps as they approach their fifth season in a tepid market and a weak economy. Whitfield said in a prepared statement Friday morning that “we must become more efficient as a business in this economic climate.''
The Bobcats have also signed corporate partnerships with a janitorial service and travel agency to lower day-to-day costs. The team manages Time Warner Cable Arena, the city-financed facility where it plays, which accounts for some of the franchise's staffing needs.
The Bobcats keep any profit or pay any deficit resulting from managing the arena. The Bobcats recently retained an outside firm, hoping to book more non-basketball events at the arena.
Sources say the team has lost millions in its first four seasons, in part because of owner Bob Johnson's costly mistake of starting a regional sports network to televise its games. That network, C-SET, folded before the team's second season and was responsible for about $15million in losses.
Last spring, the Bobcats moved their television rights to Fox Sports Net in a complex deal that granted arena-naming rights to Time Warner Cable.
Two sources told the Observer the team considered eliminating radio broadcasts as a cost-saving measure, but were dissuaded by the league office.
Two industry sources estimated the Bobcats have roughly 5,000 to 6,000 season-ticket holders. Despite the financial losses, the team moving out of Charlotte is unlikely because of relocation penalties in the arena lease that would cost $100 million or more.
Earlier this month, chief marketing officer Greg Economou left the franchise.
The Bobcats appear to be banking heavily on wins and losses, having hired Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown in April. Brown won an NBA title coaching the Detroit Pistons and an NCAA championship coaching Kansas.
He replaces Sam Vincent, who lasted a single season after the team finished 32-50. The Bobcats have never reached the playoffs.
The team said repeatedly Friday that cutbacks would not impact basketball operations. This week, the Bobcats offered power forward Carl Landry a three-year, $9million contract. But Landry, a restricted free agent, is staying in Houston because the Rockets matched that.
Over the summer, the Bobcats signed center Emeka Okafor to a six-year, $72million contract extension.