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Magic Johnson joins Detroit venture-capital firm

July 21, 2011 |  9:03 am

Magic JohnsonLakers Hall of Famer and former Michigan State standout Magic Johnson will join Detroit Venture Partners, a venture-capital firm that invests in seed and early-stage technology companies.

“I am investing in Detroit Venture Partners and the city of Detroit because I want to have a positive impact on the biggest downtown in my home state," Johnson said in a statement. "I believe strongly in the Detroit 2.0 movement."

Johnson is referring to the initiative originally launched by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in which he relocated Quicken Loans and its 1,700 workers from the suburbs in Detroit. Gilbert had purchased the downtown Madison Theatre in hopes it becomes a collaborative entrepreneurial hub for tech companies, such as Skidmore Studios. GalaxE.Solutions also opened a downtown office in the former First Federal of Michigan building.

Gilbert, Josh Linkner (founder & chairman of ePrize) and Brian Hermelin (founder & chairman of the private equity firm Rockbridge Growth Equity) founded Detroit Venture Partners in 2010, which lends operational support to early-stage companies primarily based in Detroit and the surrounding region.

"Look forward to help putting people back to work in my home state," Johnson tweeted on his personal account

Johnson in recent years has kept himself heavily involved in various business ventures since retiring from basketball, including commercial real estate, health clubs and restaurants. As a star on five Lakers championship teams in the 1980s, Johnson purchased a share of the franchise for a reported $10 million in June 1994. He then sold his 4.5% ownership stake in the Lakers to billionaire season-ticket holder Patrick Soon-Shiong in October but has kept his title as vice president. Soon after, Johnson divested his interest in Starbucks, selling 105 of the franchises back to the company. The Times' Broderick Turner reported at the time that the two sales combined were worth more than $100 million to Johnson.

Said Linkner in a statement: “Earvin brings so much to the DVP team -– entrepreneurial experience, a passion for Detroit and Michigan, additional capital to fund businesses, and the well-respected Magic brand.” 

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-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Magic Johnson. Credit: Los Angeles Times