Hawks start sale process after racism scandal
ATLANTA, USA – The Atlanta Hawks confirmed Friday, January 9 that the NBA team has started the process of selling the team. A move majority owner Bruce Levenson began last September after a racism controversy.
The Hawks are on a 6-game win streak and have the best record in the Eastern Conference at 27-8, trailing only Golden State's 28-5 mark for the top record in the league this season.
"The Atlanta Hawks today announced that its owners have unanimously approved a plan to sell the franchise and the Philips Arena operating rights," a statement from the club said. "The sale will commence immediately."
Hawks owners have retained Goldman Sachs and Inner Circle Sports to advise on the sale of the club and other assets, with the process expected to take several months. NBA owners must approve any sale deal.
Levenson decided to sell his majority interest in the Hawks last September after his 2012 email became public in which he made racist comments that included "the black crowd scared away the whites."
A probe that uncovered the email began last June after Hawks general manager Danny Ferry made racist remarks about African-born British NBA star Luol Deng during a conference call discussing potential Hawks free agent options.
Ferry said Deng "has a little African in him" and added, "he's like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back."
That led to Ferry taking an indefinite leave of absence and calls for his firing.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper reported last week that instead of only a controlling interest, a full 100% ownership stake would be available and that several groups have already inquired about the team, including those of former NBA player Grant Hill, former Toronto Raptors top executive Bryan Colangelo and billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
The Hawks were valued at $425 million last January by Forbes magazine, fourth-lowest in the NBA at the time, but the final sale price will likely be much higher because of the forced sale of the NBA Los Angeles Clippers last year, in the wake of racist remarks by former owner Donald Sterling, to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
Also likely to boost the price is the $2.7 billion media rights deal the NBA signed last October, which ensures record telecast rights profits for the league and its clubs.
An NBA spokesman told the Journal-Constitution that a condition of the sale would be that the Hawks could not be relocated to another city, as Atlanta fans have backed the club despite a lack of post-season success.
Atlanta seeks an 8th consecutive season in the playoffs but the only time the Hawks have advanced more than one round in the playoffs came in 1958, when they captured their only league title while based in St. Louis. The Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968. – Rappler.com