Things seem to be picking up steam in the sale of the Atlanta Hawks, in part because all three different current ownership groups — who often fought amongst themselves for power and with that hindered the franchise — have agreed to sell. Someone or some group can buy 100 percent of the team.
A couple of those interested have some big NBA name recognition — Grant Hill and former Suns and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo.
Over at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Chris Vivlamore laid out some of the rumored interested parties in buying the team.
* Jason Levian. The former Memphis Grizzlies CEO left the organization in May. He is a co-owner of the MLS franchise D.C. United.
* Steve Kaplan: The Los Angeles-based investor joined Robert Pera’s group as a limited investor to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies. He has reportedly made attempts to buy baseball’s San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers in recent years.
* Sheldon Adelson: The billionaire businessman is the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
* Byran Colangelo: The former President and CEO of the Toronto Raptors. The son of Jerry Colangelo, he was the NBA’s 2005 and 2007 Executive of the Year.
* Grant Hill: The former NBA player and current analyst joined Antony Ressler and Bruce Karsh with a $1.2 billion failed bid to by the Los Angeles Clippers. Hill deflected questions about his interest in the Hawks during a recent segment on NBA TV.
There are others interested as well from previous reports: Dikembe Mutombo, Chris Webber, entertainment lawyer Doug Davis, and Jesse Itzler, the rapper who has done some consulting work for the Hawks and is a regular at their games.
Either Hill or Colangelo would have to team with money men — like the guys above them on this list — to be able to afford it. However, there may be ownership groups willing to bring in Hill or Colangelo as the face of the group and let them run at least the basketball side of the operations. It is likely there will be a main money man with several of these people as minority partners.
There were tweeted reports from Bill Simmons of Grantland that some Seattle groups are interested in buying the Hawks and moving them.
I will tell you I have heard that there is almost zero chance of that happening. The NBA wants to keep a team in Atlanta, one of its key markets in the South. Think back to how hard Adam Silver worked to keep the Kings in Sacramento — he does not want to give up on a market that has not given up on the team. Atlanta has not, their attendance and television ratings have had big leaps this season as the Hawks have come together on the court and have the best record in the East.
Plus, remember that the NBA is very tight partners with Turner Broadcasting, which runs NBA TV, broadcasts Thursday showcase games on TNT (plus has the brilliant Inside the NBA) and also runs the Internet powerhouse Bleacher Report, which has heavy NBA content. Turner’s headquarters is in Atlanta, not far at all from Phillips Arena.
On top of that there are serious financial issues in trying to move the Hawks — there is a $75 million lease buyout right now plus the owners would have to pay off bonds used to renovate the arena. We’re talking a lot of cash added on top of an already steep sales price.
Which is to say, the Hawks aren’t leaving Atlanta.
The question is who will own them next in the city.