Atlanta mayor says he has spoken to six potential buyers of Hawks

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You knew there would be a long line of insanely rich people waiting to talk to Bruce Levenson after he announced he would sell his majority share of the Atlanta Hawks in the wake of controversial comments in an email. The racial turmoil around the team in the wake of Levenson’s email and GM Danny Ferry’s comments is not slowing potential suitors.

Those potential buyers may want to make nice with (and kiss up to) is Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. And Reed has a real interest here — the city of Atlanta owns the Phillips Arena where the Hawks play and he has already lost a hockey team in that building, he can’t afford to lose the Hawks.

Reed spoke with six potential new owners of the Hawks, he told the Associated Press.

Reed, who did not identify the prospective buyers, said whoever buys the team would have majority ownership. While Levenson owns 24 percent of the team, his Washington partner Ed Peskowitz has also agreed to sale his share, meaning that 50.1 percent of the team is available, according to the mayor…

“I have had conversations with no less than six prospective buyers,” Reed said. “All six of those prospective buyers will have to go through a process to be vetted by the NBA. That process is going to occur very quickly…”

In addition, Reed said the city will likely be willing to offer concessions to any new owner to ensure the Hawks commit to remaining in Atlanta for another 30 years. He said there could be as much as $150 million available after the city sells Turner Field, the current home of the Braves, though the mayor said that process has been held up by the baseball team’s refusal to negotiate terms for its departure.

He would not name the potential buyers. One guy who threw his hat in the ring was legendary Hawks player Dominique Wilkins (with a partner who has the cash), but there’s a lot of competition. I’d take a stab at coming up with names but I’m not as up on my hedge fund billionaires as I should be.

Whoever is chosen by Levenson to buy the team is going to have a lot of repairing of relationships to do in Atlanta, with season ticket holders and community members. He has to decide what to do with Ferry. The apparent culture of racism in the organization (or at least the perception of it) means a multi-year process is needed in that city.

Apparently such things are not deterring buyers.