- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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The Golden State Warriors on Friday confirmed their interest in operating a WNBA franchise, a day after the league announced that the Los Angeles Sparks ownership group has ceased operations of the team and laid off all front-office employees.
The Bay Area's NBA franchise also confirmed that it has been in contact with the WNBA about the possibility of taking over the Sparks.
League president Laurel Richie confirmed Thursday night that the WNBA has made contact with groups that have previously expressed interest in running a franchise.
The Warriors are now confirmed to be among those groups. Warriors owner Joe Lacob is a longtime women's basketball supporter, a season-ticket holder for Stanford's women's team and a former owner of the San Jose Lasers of the American Basketball League. Golden State chief operating officer Rick Welts worked closely with then-president Val Ackerman to launch the league in 1997.
"Our ownership group has maintained their interest in operating a WNBA team in the Bay Area since acquiring the Warriors three years ago," Warriors team spokesman Raymond Ridder said. "We've had exploratory conversations relating to this topic with the WNBA on several occasions since 2010, including most recently regarding the Los Angeles franchise. At this point, our dialogue remains in the exploratory stage as we evaluate the complexities of any such acquisition now or in the future."
Sparks chairman Paula Madison told the Associated Press on Thursday night that her family lost $12 million since taking over the franchise in 2007, including $1.4 million last season.
The Sparks also lost their major sponsorship deal with Farmer's Insurance.
Madison informed the league just before Christmas that her family would be giving up ownership of the team, leaving the WNBA scrambling for new owners in time to keep the team intact for the start of the 2014 season.
Players report to training camp in May.
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