Rebuilding professional sports franchises is not an easy task to accomplish. But Gordon Gund, as principal owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1983-2005, has done that not just once, but with two different teams in two different sports.
Twenty-one seasons ago, it looked as though the Cavaliers might be headed out of Northeast Ohio until Gordon, now 64 and a native of Cleveland, and his brother George stepped in to purchase the club at the last minute, keeping the team at The Coliseum.
As a former co-owner with George of the Minnesota North Stars of the National Hockey League, Gordon and his brother were instrumental in building the franchise before its eventual sale in the spring of 1990. At that time, Gordon and George were granted an NHL expansion team that began play as the San Jose Sharks for the 1991-92 season. In just their third season, the Sharks took the Toronto Maple Leafs to the seven-game limit in the 1994 Conference Semi Finals. In October 1996, Gund was elected Chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors and served in that capacity for three years.
The Gunds presided over the resurgence of The Coliseum and the design and construction of Gund Arena which opened at the beginning of the 1994-95 season. Under the guidance of the Gunds, building records were set in attendance and bookings in both facilities, while the Cavaliers have recorded one of the largest increases in home attendance in the NBA over the past 19 seasons. In 15 of the past 16 seasons, the Cavaliers have recorded the highest
attendance averages in franchise history.
Cavaliers’ games and all other events formerly held at The Coliseum moved to Gund Arena in the fall of 1994. Gund Arena played host to approximately 200 world-class events each year, including Cavaliers basketball, Cleveland Barons hockey, big-name concerts and family shows. Since its grand opening in October 1994, close to two million visitors have attended Gund Arena events each year. Gund Arena is located in the heart of downtown Cleveland and seats 20,562 for basketball.
The expertise displayed by Gordon in the sports world has been evident in his other interests as well. He served as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Gund Investment Corporation, which is involved in diversified investment activities. Gordon is also Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Gund Business Enterprises, Inc. Gordon was a director of the Kellogg Company of Battle Creek, Michigan, and of Corning Incorporated of Corning, New York. In the summer of 2000, Gordon was selected by Director’s Alert as one of the Outstanding Directors in Corporate America.
He also recently served as a board member of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Gordon devoted a great deal of energy to national charitable and philanthropic causes. In 1971, he and his wife, Lulie, were members of the founding group
of The Foundation Fighting Blindness, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland and Gordon is its National Chairman. This foundation is dedicated to finding treatments and/or cures for retinitis pigmentosa and allied degenerative diseases of the retina, such as Usher syndrome and macular degeneration. These diseases as a group affect more than nine million Americans and are the leading causes of blindness and deaf-blindness in the United States today. The Foundation has 35 chapters throughout the U.S. and is affiliated nationally with similar societies in 39 countries. In 1997, Gordon and his wife Lulie received The Recognition Award given by The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).
Gordon is the former President of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts and is a past recipient of the school’s Distinguished Grotonian Award. In addition, in 1991 he received the Seymour Preston Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, for his work with the Groton School Board of Trustees over the preceding decade.
Along with his brother, Gordon received the prestigious 1984 Jesse Owens “Pride of Cleveland Award,” given to the Gunds by the Sports Media Association of Cleveland and Ohio (S.M.A.C.O.), in recognition of their outstanding leadership of both the Cavaliers and The Coliseum and for their positive impact on the Northeast Ohio community. In December 1989, Gordon received Town & Country magazine’s Generous American Award, and in June 1990, the American Academy of Achievement honored him as a recipient of the Golden Plate Award. Gordon is a graduate of Harvard University and has honorary doctorates from the Goteburg University in Sweden, University of Maryland, Whittier College and the University of Vermont.
In 2005, Gordon Gund sold the majority share of the Cleveland Cavaliers to a group led by Dan Gilbert. Gordon still remains a minority owner.