Before she purchased the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream in October of 2009, Kathy Betty and the women’s basketball team were both at a low point. Betty had lost her 49-year-old husband (Earthlink CEO Gary Betty) to cancer. And, the Dream was in danger of being traded or disbanded.
Six years prior, Betty had dropped out of her successful career to be the primary caregiver for not only her husband, but his parents before him. “That time caring for others allowed me to think about what was important and how I could give back to the community,” Betty says.
After her husband’s death, as Betty contemplated her options, she knew whatever she did had to have a philanthropic objective. When associates introduced her to the struggling Dream, she rescued the team from an uncertain future and created a meaningful, fresh purpose in her own life.
Betty is the first female owner of a professional sports team in Atlanta, but is no dilettante. With much of her career spent working with small start-up companies, including her own business, the Tradewind Group, Betty is in familiar territory. She was also one of the first female partners at accounting firm Ernst & Young and an executive vice president at the management consulting firm ScottMadden.
As an astute businesswoman, she sees great opportunities for the team’s future in the Atlanta market. “We have come from winning only four games in the first season to making the play-offs in year two,” says Betty. “And, the Dream’s Marynell Meadors was named coach of the year and Angel McCoughtry rookie of the year.”
The team’s potential to inspire young women also fuels Betty’s enthusiasm. “Girls who participate in sports are more likely to graduate.” says Betty. “In addition to selling tickets and sponsorships, my goal for the Dream is to provide a role model for young women in the community.”
With the Dream’s commitment to mentoring women, there’s sure to be a lot more young girls playing basketball in Atlanta and finding their own dreams. Yet when Betty was growing up in Decatur, Ala., there were no organized sports for girls. That didn’t stop Betty, who played sports anyway. “In Alabama everyone does two things – go to church and play sports,” she says.
With the 2010 WNBA season beginning in May, Kathy Betty will at last get her chance to participate in organized women’s sports – and in the big-time.
|Written by Melinda Ennis-Roughton|
|March 14, 2010|