Here’s hoping the Atlanta Hawks’ new ownership group proves to be more popular than the team’s new uniforms. It certainly shouldn’t have much trouble being more popular than the previous regime.
On Wednesday, hours after the Hawks unveiled neon green-accented outfits that may just take some getting used to, a more expected, but no less momentous, development occurred. The NBA approved the sale of the team, which had been agreed upon in April, to an ownership group headed by billionaire Tony Ressler and including former all-star Grant Hill.
The sale is reportedly for $850 million and includes control of Philips Arena. The league issued this statement:
The NBA Board of Governors has unanimously approved the sale of the Atlanta Hawks to an ownership group led by Tony Ressler.
“We are pleased that the NBA’s Board of Governors has approved the purchase of the Atlanta Hawks by principal owner Tony Ressler,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Tony and his diverse and experienced ownership group will bring tremendous energy and passion to the Hawks and the team and its fans will greatly benefit from their commitment to the Atlanta community.”
Ressler made his fortune in private equity, and he is a minority owner of the Brewers who made a bid for the Clippers last year, as well as for the Dodgers in 2012. Ressler, who is married to actress Jami Gertz, will be the majority owner of the Hawks.
Bringing further star power to the Hawks’ new ownership group is Hill, who played for the Pistons, Magic, Suns and Clippers during an 18-year career that saw him go to seven all-star games. The 42-year-old Reston, Va., native was the league’s co-rookie of the year in 1995 (with Jason Kidd) and was an all-NBA first team selection in 1997.
Both Ressler and Hill are expected to be at a news conference Thursday announcing the sale. Other members of the group include Spanx founder Sara Blakely and her husband, Marquis Jet co-founder Jesse Itzler, as well as members of previous ownership groups who were allowed to retain small stakes.
The Hawks went on sale following the discovery last year of racially insensitive remarks made by then-co-owner Bruce Levenson in 2012. That discovery was made after then-general manager Danny Ferry made a racially charged comment of his own in regard to Luol Deng.
Ferry, who has been on paid leave since September, is expected to be let go by the new owners, with the Hawks’ coach, Mike Budenholzer, adding the title of team president. Amid the controversy over Levenson and Ferry’s comments, as well as the uncertainty of an impending sale, the Hawks managed to have a banner season under Budenholzer, who was named NBA coach of the year for leading Atlanta to a franchise-record 60 wins and its first-ever berth in the Eastern Conference finals.