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Magic would be hands-on owner

Magic Johnson says he is no mere figurehead in a Toronto group's bid to win an NBA franchise.

"I'm not a front man for anybody," he said at a news conference Tuesday. "I own all my own companies. Anything I'm involved in, I'm really involved in."

Three Toronto groups are vying for an NBA team, with Johnson's outfit the Toronto Basketball Associates. Should his group win the bid, Johnson says he will be the general manager, president, talent evaluator, part-owner and anything else he wants.

The group includes Toronto concert magnates Bill Ballard and Michael Cohl; Jim Fifield, chief executive officer of the multibillion-dollar entertainment company EMI Records; and Robert Foster, chairman of Capital Canada Limited, a merchant banking group.

Johnson says he expects no favors from the league regarding the bid.

"They don't owe me anything," he said. "I don't want them to give it to me because they think they owe me something. I want them to understand we're here, we're serious and I'm going to run this to the best of my abilities.

"Everything I got out of life I earned, and I don't want this to be any different."

An expansion franchise could be awarded this fall for the 1995-96 season. A Canadian city, Toronto in particular, is the clear front-runner.

The other two Toronto bidders are the Palestra Group and an entity that includes the Bank of Nova Scotia and former Ontario premier David Peterson.

Arthur Griffiths, owner of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, is spearheading a bid for his city.

None of the other groups has an individual to match Johnson's celebrity profile.

"I don't know if it gives us a big advantage or if it hurts the other bids," Johnson said. "I think my association with the NBA let's our voices be heard. They know from the past I'm serious about getting a team. My whole thing is to get a team and run a team."