ATLANTA — Former Atlanta Hawks owner Michael Gearon Sr., whose love for the team was so great that he insisted he be paid only $1 annually when he served as an executive, has died, the team announced Saturday. He was 87.
Michael Gearon Jr. told The Associated Press his father died on Nov. 22 from a brain herniation while surrounded by family in his Atlanta home.
Gearon said the family didn’t publicize his father’s death for about a week so it could have a private burial.
Gearon Sr., who built a successful real estate career, also was a former director of Turner Broadcasting and was a longtime associate and close friend of Hawks and Turner Broadcasting owner Ted Turner.
Gearon served almost 30 years in various roles with the Hawks, including as general manager from 1977-79, team president from 1977-86, chairman of the board from 1986-2003 and part of an ownership group from 2004-15.
“Michael Gearon Sr. was like a father to me and took care of me in every way,” said Hawks Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins in a statement released by the team.
“He and Hank Aaron convinced Ted Turner to trade for me and bring me to the Hawks in 1982, and forever changed my life. We talked at least three or four times a month for almost the last 40 years. Michael was a wonderful man and I will miss him.”
The Gearon & Company real estate firm is credited with pioneering the concept of large-scale suburban office buildings in park-like settings. Gearon’s business was responsible for such notable Atlanta developments as the Coastal States Building and the Perimeter Center complex.