Report: Two groups are frontrunners to buy Hawks, final bids due Friday

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More often than not, when an NBA team goes up for sale, said team has been stripped of expensive assets and is in need of a rebuild on and off the court.

The Atlanta Hawks are the exception. The team is locked in as the top seed in the East and is a legitimate title contender, one with better attendance and television ratings than in years. And the team just happens to be on the market.

There are a couple frontrunners as bidders, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Other reports estimate the final bidding price is expected to be $900 million or more.

One leading group is led by Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan, who is joined by Indonesian billionaires Erick Thohir and Handy Poernomo and former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien. Braves great Hank Aaron also has been associated with the group.

The other leading group is led by Lionsgate Entertainment’s Mark Rachesky, who is joined by New York investment banker Steve Starker. Jesse Itzler, who has done consulting work for the Hawks and attends many games, is also associated with the group.

The process doesn’t end Friday. Whoever wins the bidding has to go through the NBA’s vetting process then be approved by a vote of the other owners. This likely takes until June.

The new ownership group will have to deal with the Danny Ferry situation. On a conference call with owners, Ferry read words from a scouting report  saying of free agent Luol Deng “he’s got some African in him” — that led to Ferry being on leave from the team and in danger of losing his job. And apologizing. Twice. Coach Mike Budenholzer has been pulling double duty in Ferry’s absence.

But in general you’d be hard pressed to find a team in a better situation on the court up for sale. Hopefully whichever group wins the bidding doesn’t blow that.