Lewis Katz, the owner of the New Jersey Nets during the Jason Kidd era when the team went to two consecutive NBA Finals, has died in a plane crash in Massachusetts.
Katz was best known recently as the owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News and philly.com — earlier this week he and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest had spent $88 million to buy out their other partners in the media companies and take full control of the papers and online entities.
All seven people were killed aboard the private aircraft that crashed at Hanscom Field and erupted into a fireball, authorities said Sunday.
The Gulfstream IV crashed about 9:40 p.m. Saturday as it was departing for Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey, said Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the air field.
Katz grew up in Camden, New Jersey, and went to Temple University in Philadelphia. He made most of his money first investing in the large Kinney Parking empire then investing in the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (YES Network) in New York, which to this day still carries the Nets games.
Katz bought the Nets in 1998 for what is believed to be $150 million and he owned the team for six seasons — but those were the best six seasons in Nets history. Well, it didn’t start out that way, the first year he owned the team the Nets won 16 games (in the strike-shortened 50 game season) and fired John Calipari after a 3-17 start. That Nets team was led by a young Stephon Marbury and Keith Van Horn. With much the same roster they won 34 then 26 games the next two seasons.
But then came Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and 52 wins and a trip to the Finals. The Nets equaled that the next season — but in both finals they ran into the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant Lakers.
In 2004, Katz sold the Nets to Bruce Rattner — the man with the dream and plan to move the team to Brooklyn — for $300 million.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Katz.