All three of the Hawks ownership groups have agreed to sell their respective shares of the team, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, meaning that 100% of the franchise will be available for purchase. Vivlamore hears that the NBA has approved of the sale and that the Hawks are being valued by interested parties at upwards of $600MM, while Grantland’s Zach Lowe was told by a league source that the organization might be worth anywhere from $750MM-$1 billion (Twitter link). Still, Lowe cautions that the club’s value is more likely on the lower end of that spectrum.
Controlling owner Bruce Levenson and his partners agreed to sell their 50.1% stake in the team in late September, shortly before a racially charged email from GM Danny Ferry was leaked and a controversial message Levenson had written in 2012 went public after an internal investigation. The Hawks’ other two ownership groups, led by Michael Gearon Jr. and Steven Price, were initially undecided on whether or not they would sell their stakes in the team, but reports from this summer had indicated that prospective purchasers wanted the entire franchise to exchange hands rather than just a portion of it.
There have been several parties reportedly interested in purchasing the Hawks, including former players Dominique Wilkins, Dikembe Mutombo and Chris Webber. Former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and attorney Doug Davis have also reportedly expressed interest. Whoever ends up with controlling interest in the team likely won’t have the opportunity to relocate the franchise out of Atlanta, Vivlamore notes, because the NBA would not want to lose a team in a top-10 market.
The sale of the Hawks franchise will put a finish to an unforgettable saga in Atlanta that changed the image of the organization and sent Ferry on an indefinite leave from his post at GM that he’s reportedly unlikely to ever return from. Multiple players indicated they would feel uncomfortable joining a team led by Levenson and Ferry after hearing the racially fueled comments the duo made, so perhaps the change in direction will help mend the view of the franchise going forward.
The Clippers were sold for a record $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in August after a similar, albeit much more controversial, situation unfolded in Los Angeles when then-owner Donald Sterling was caught making inflammatory remarks about Magic Johnson and African Americans during a recorded conversation with his girlfriend. The Bucks were purchased by an ownership group spearheaded by Marc Lasry and Wes Edens last April for $550MM. The Hawks sound likely to land somewhere in between those two figures, with more prospective buyers sure to surface in the coming weeks.