The Atlanta Hawks are changing hands in the ownership department and this is coming after one of their most successful seasons of all time: a 60 win regular season that led to the Eastern Conference Finals. Owner Bruce Levenson is going forward to complete a sale, thus giving up his majority ownership, to billionaire entrepreneur and real estate developer Antony Ressler. The purchasing group, led by Ressler and former NBA star Grant Hill, will assume control for the 2015 – 16 season, one year removed from Atlanta’s finest basketball year yet. Ressler will have a lot on his plate in the first year of ownership, but he certainly paid enough to gain the responsibilities.
Bruce Levenson initially bought the Atlanta Hawks back in 2004 alongside his partner Ed Peskowitz. The two were majority partners and they also had purchased usage rights to the Phillips Arena and the NHL team, the Atlanta Thrashers. When Levenson of UCG took over the Atlanta Hawks he was facing down a monumental task in revitalizing an Atlanta fanbase that seemed all too content to ignore their franchise in its lowly years. The Hawks had been coming off of consecutive 30ish win seasons and looked destined to stay there for quite awhile. With no reason to come to the arena the Hawks were sitting at the bottom of the NBA in fan attendance.
With years of solid drafting and free agency signings behind him, Levenson eventually helped to lead the Hawks into consistent contention — peaking in the 2014 season. The Hawks have been perennial playoff teams ever since the maturation process of center Al Horford peaked. With Horford, Teague, and Paul Millsap serving as the core of Atlanta’s engine the team was able to consistently push forward. Antony Ressler clearly sensed that the Hawks were on the ‘up and up’ and made his move.
Antony Ressler is a billionaire real estate developer with his fingers in several sporting pots. Levenson right now is a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and he had previously been trying to acquire the Los Angeles Clippers when they went on sale. However, Ressler and his buying group were stymied by Steve Ballmer’s willingness to offer $2 billion for the rights to the franchise. Ressler didn’t wait long, however, when he heard that the Hawks were hitting the market.
Ressler and his buying group came in and made their bids competitive from the get go, not wanting to let another opportunity to get into the NBA slip away. The Hawks were initially valued at $425 million before their record setting season but a convergence of factors made that value null as it rapidly increased. Though there are reports that the Hawks ended up being oversold, their final selling value hit $850 million and it was a price that Antony Ressler seemed all to willing to pay. With Ressler at the helm and the Hawks looking to build off of a powerful season, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Atlanta return once more to the basketball elite.