George Gund III, a former owner of the Richfield Coliseum and the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA franchise with his brother Gordon, died Tuesday in Palm Springs, Calif.
The San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League confirmed Gund’s death at age 75. Officials said he had a long battle with cancer.
Gund and his brother took over ownership of the Coliseum from Chase Manhattan Bank in 1981 and bought the Cavaliers along with Nationwide Advertising Service from Cleveland businessman Ted Stepien in 1983.
Before making those moves, however, Gund’s first foray into Cleveland sports came in 1976 when he and Gordon Gund purchased the California Seals NHL team and moved it to Cleveland, naming the team the Barons.
The Barons were not a success, however, averaging 6,200 fans in 1976-77 and 5,500 per game in the 1977-78 season. Attendance in 1977-78 was the lowest in the 18-team league. Reports said the franchise had a loss of $2 million to $3 million during the two years.
Two years later, the franchise was merged with the Minnesota North Stars and moved to Minneapolis.
Gund and Gordon relinquished their ownership stake in the North Stars in 1990 in exchange for the rights to an expansion team in the Bay Area. That led to the creation of the San Jose Sharks, who played their first game in 1991.
Gund sold the franchise in 2002 but continued to attend games.
Gund served as a director of AmeriTrust Co. in Cleveland for 17 years.
While Gund grew up in Cleveland and developed a love for ice hockey, he managed his business interests in San Francisco and had property in the Bay Area and Nevada. He also served as a trustee of the George Gund Foundation, which is still based in Cleveland.
Gund was known for his participation in the Pacific Film Archive, the Cleveland International Film Festival and in 1986 became a trustee of the Sundance Institute in Utah. He also served with art institutes and galleries in San Francisco and New York.