Report: Mark Rachesky jumps into bidding for Hawks; price tag north of $900 million

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When news leaked out recently that the highest bid for the Atlanta Hawks was $800 million, we noted that the only reason to leak that number this early in the process — those were the early, non-binding bids — was to drive up the price. Try to create a bidding war.

Well, there is at least one new player and the price to be in the hand is indeed going up.

Mark Rachesky, a guy known for snapping up businesses at a bargain after their rough times, has entered the bidding, reports Marc Stein at ESPN. And the bid mentioned a week ago is already old news.

Mark Rachesky, chairman of Lionsgate Entertainment and a noted distressed-asset investor, has emerged as the most recent bidder for the Atlanta Hawks, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that Rachesky, ‎who heads the investment firm MHR Fund Management, is a close associate of Atlanta Braves controlling owner John Malone, which is said to have sparked Rachesky’s interest in the Hawks.

That’s interesting because the Braves are building a new stadium out in the Cobb County suburbs and getting out of downtown, urban Atlanta — the area the Hawks have embraced this season. The Hawks are seeing sellouts in part because of that shift (that and the winning team).

The Atlanta price tag will not be a bargain. Soon, after some background checks, the interested parties will be asked to put their real, final bids on the table.

Binding offers would then follow, with one source telling ESPN.com this week that at least one of the interested groups has made its willingness known to pay in excess of $900 million for the team.

There are multiple groups in on the bidding, some with local faces in front of foreign money. There is the group Atlanta legend Hank Aaron is fronting (they have both domestic and foreign investors). There is the group Grant Hill is in on, along with Junior Bridgeman ‎and Jerry Colangelo. There are some other groups, at least one working to court Dominique Wilkins and other NBA legends to front their groups (heavy on international money). Rachesky is in that mix.

This process has not been quick, although it has lacked the public drama of the Clippers sale (and the potential Nets sale). But by the time they are done the Hawks could fetch $1 billion — and that new owner would be buying a contender.