Tag: Atlanta Spirit

Alex Meruelo

Hawks sale falls apart, team taken off market. Sorry Hawks fans.


To Hawks fans hoping for a new ownership to breathe new life into a franchise seemingly stuck in the middle, we’re sorry to pass along this news.

The sale of the Hawks to Alex Meruelo has been scuttled — something rumored for a few weeks around concerns about Meruelo’s finances — and now the Atlanta Spirit ownership group has taken the team off the market, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The agreement between Meruelo and current Hawks owner Atlanta Spirit Group, signed in early August and contingent on NBA approval, was terminated by mutual agreement Friday….

The Spirit says its current plan is to hold on to the franchise indefinitely. “The Atlanta Hawks are no longer for sale,” (Spirit group leader Bruce) Levenson said in a statement. “We’re excited to remain as owners of the Hawks and are committed to building on our string of four straight playoff appearances.”

The Spirit ownership group has the reputation of fighting amongst itself. It does approve odd things like giving Joe Johnson more money than LeBron James. Still it’s a struggle. If the basketball side of the business wants to make a decision it has to lobby and politic to get enough of the owners on their side. And for now, that odd system will continue.

Which means a team that is good — they’ve made the second round of the playoffs the last two years — but not really good enough to challenge for a ring will pretty much stay as they are.

Sorry Hawks fans. It doesn’t bode well for the future. (Although I have to think if another suitor comes along, the Spirit will listen.)

Report: Hawks close to being sold. Again. Owners deny. Again

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UPDATE June 24, 3:39 am: The Atlanta Spirit, the ownership group for the Hawks, denied the report that a deal is close, according to the Associated Press:

The Atlanta Spirit issued a statement saying “we have spoken with a number of parties, but at this time, there is no deal in place, nor is there an exclusive negotiating agreement in place.”  Hawks spokesman Arthur Triche said Thursday the team had no further comment.

Not sure how close they are, but there sure seems to be a lot of smoke for no fire.

June 23, 6:22 pm: A month ago reports surfaced that the Atlanta Hawks were on the verge of  being sold to John Moores (the man in the process of selling the San Diego Padres). That deal fell apart, but in the mean time the Atlanta Spirit (the name of the ownership group) sold off the Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL, a franchise now on its way to Winnipeg.

Apparently the Spirit did not stop trying to sell the Hawks, too, and they are close to a deal again, according to Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated.

One of the sources confirmed that the sale is about to be consummated, but declined to identify the buyer.

The news was expected to come as a surprise to team officials of the Hawks, who were not aware a sale was imminent as they prepared for the NBA draft. SI.com learned of the sale hours before the draft, though the news is not expected to influence the Hawks’ decision-making during the draft.

The buyer may be Moores, the two sides were not exclusively negotiating but may have kept talking, or it could be a different group entirely. Either way, new ownership would likely mean big changes for the Hawks.

Report: Talks underway to sell Atlanta Hawks

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It looks like the Atlanta Spirit — a consortium of owners for the Atlanta Hawks and NHL’s Thrashers — are getting out of the sports ownership business.

The Spirit is in talks to sell the Hawks and Phillips Arena to John Moores, the former San Diego Padres owner, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. These talks parallel the Spirit’s effort to sell the Thrashers to an ownership group out of Winnepeg.

Two people familiar with the situation, both of whom asked not to be identified because of the ongoing talks, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Spirit and outgoing San Diego Padres owner John Moores are in an exclusive negotiating period regarding the Hawks and the Philips Arena operating rights. Both people said a deal is not close and that it’s far from assured one will get done.

The exclusive negotiating period means the owners agreed not to pursue the sale of the Hawks to any other prospective purchaser for a prescribed period of time. It is not known when Moores’ exclusivity expires.

That sound you just heard was cheers going up from Hawks fans, who see the Spirit group as an impediment to success. This was a consortium of owners with different agendas (some just to cut costs) and that left general managers and others trying to sell and marshal support among various owners for the direction they wanted to go.

This will not end in the team being moved. San Diego does not have anywhere near an NBA-ready arena. The San Diego Arena where the Clippers played was outdated when they moved in the mid-80s. Also, Atlanta is the eighth-largest television market in the nation, San Diego is 28. The league is not looking to shrink right now.

Moores was generally seen as a good owner, according to Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra. He stayed out of the baseball side of operations and largely out of the spotlight. He spent when the Padres had a chance to be good. He got San Diego’s beautiful new PETCO Park built downtown. He’d still own the team if a messy divorce had not forced him to sell. (What is it with messy divorces and MLB owners in Southern California? Taking cues from the governor?)

Forbes estimates the worth of the Hawks to be $295 million, that is without Phillips Arena, which is part of this negotiation. The Spirit recently refinanced $123 million of debt on the arena (and the team is no longer collateral on that debt). The team is estimated to have lost $7.3 million last season.

Bottom line, this may be a long ways off but it is reason to hope. Moores would be an upgrade to the current ownership group. This would be good for the Hawks.