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

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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.)