In September 2014, controlling owner, time.com posted that Bruce Levenson, announced his intent to sell his 50.1% stake in the Atlanta Hawks. Levenson is the co-founder and partner of United Communications Group (UCG), which provides the tools and techniques, news and analyses that give its clients an advantage over their competitors. UCG also owns and operates GasBuddy, a mobile application that helps drivers find low gas prices in their area.
In the months following Levenson’s announcement, the owners of the remaining shares, Michael Gearon, Jr. (32.3% stake) and Steven Price (17.6% stake), also announced their intent to sell.
The sale reportedly includes the operating rights to the Hawks’ training facility, Philips Arena. The Arena was the subject of harsh criticism from one of the prospective buyers recently, being called “subpar” amid allegations that the weight room fails to meet NBA standards and the luxury box setup doesn’t measure up to the typical luxury box owners’ expectations. Someone familiar with the arena and the critiquing party told ajc.com that the concern and reason for critique was that the arena may limit the owners’ options and be a disadvantage and/or deterrent in attracting the best and brightest new talent, many of which are Free Agents.
Recent buzz on the sale indicates that the group that has been considered the front runner since mid-April, shortly after the bid submission deadline of April 10, 2015, is still in first place as the probable new owner(s). The group, led by billionaire equity and investment fund manager, Antony Ressler, includes former NBA All-Star, Grant Hill (College: Duke, NBA: Pistons, Magic, Suns, & Clippers), Spanx owner and youngest self-made female billionaire, Sara Blakely, as well as her husband Jesse Itzler, philanthropist and co-founder of Marquis Jet.
Inner Circle Sports and Goldman Sachs were retained by the Hawks to represent the current owners in the sale. Forbes reports that the Banker “oversold” the current owners on the final sale price for the team, by about 27%. So, what was the Banker’s pitch and what was the estimated final sale price, you ask? Ask, it’s rumoured that the estimate given was as high as $1 Billion. As for the pitch – only those in the room at the time will ever know for sure. According to recently released details of the final agreement of sale, Ressler’s group is getting quite the discount off of the supposed $1 Billion sale price, with the final price being reported at $730 Million.
The pending ownership change will hopefully foster further growth and success for the Hawks and we look forward to an exciting new season.