7:04pm: The Hawks announced in a press release that a definitive agreement has been signed for the purchase of the team by the group fronted by Ressler. “We are honored and thrilled to have been chosen to become the new stewards of the Hawks,” said Ressler. “We respect the NBA’s approval process and, accordingly, can say no more other than we are incredibly excited by the Hawks’ success and wish them luck in the playoffs.” The sale, which also includes operation of Philips Arena, requires the approval of the NBA Board of Governors before it can be finalized.
The statement lists Hill, Itzler, and private equity investor Rick Schnall as members of the group, as well as clothing entrepreneur Sara Blakely, who is married to Itzler. Starker and Frankel aren’t listed.
2:50pm: Michael Gearon Jr., who currently owns a minority share of the team, will keep a small percentage of the Hawks, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gearon reportedly pressed for Ferry’s dismissal this past June.
2:14pm: Shelburne, Soshnick and Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com all indicate that the Ressler group will assume debt as part of the deal (All Twitter links). Soshnick refers to it as about $120MM worth of arena debt, and Arnovitz says the total price, debt included, will come to approximately $850MM. So that seems to back up Soshnick’s original $730MM figure, which appears to represent the cost of the team itself.
1:35pm: The price will be somewhere between $750MM and $900MM, according to Wojnarowski, who writes in a full story.
1:32pm: A sale price of more than $800MM will be announced soon, as Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com hears (Twitter link). The new owners plan to keep CEO Steve Koonin and coach/acting GM Mike Budenholzer aboard, Shelburne adds. The disparity between the figures may be related to $112MM worth of bonds left over from the construction of Philips Arena, a point Mike Ozanian of Forbes.com made earlier when there was about $100MM difference between reported amounts of the preliminary bidding figures.
1:20pm: The Ressler group is paying $730MM for the team, reports Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg.com (Twitter link). That’s somewhat lower than the roughly $800MM figure previously reported for preliminary bids.
12:56pm: Private equity mogul Tony Ressler is finalizing a deal with Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson to buy the team for a price of less than $1 billion, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter links). Ressler’s bidding group reportedly includes Grant Hill. Brokerage firm founder Steven Starker and rapper-turned-entrepreneur Jesse Itzler have also been a part of the bid, as has Tampa Bay Rays part owner Randy Frankel. Ressler recently replaced investor and Lionsgate Entertainment chairman Mark Rachesky as the leader of the group that was pitted against a bid that involved baseball legend Hank Aaron as well as former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and current Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan.
Ressler was a late comer to the Hawks bidding, but he and Hill were part of a group that made a strong impression on the league when they put in a $1.2 billion bid for the Clippers, as TNT’s David Aldridge wrote in September, speculating then that Ressler and Hill could end up going after the Hawks. Hill reportedly left another group that included former Suns and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, former player Junior Bridgeman and neuropsychologist Richard Chaifetz to join the Ressler bid.
Levenson announced in September that he would sell his share of the team as he self-reported racially insensitive emails that he had sent in 2012. The rest of the owners later agreed to put 100% of the franchise on the block. GM Danny Ferry‘s fate also seems tied to the sale, as he’s been on indefinite leave of absence since his own racially charged remarks about Luol Deng surfaced.