The Atlanta Hawks will officially be on the market in a matter of days, with a 100 percent stake in the franchise available, and several prospective buyers have already expressed an interest.
The sale process is in its infancy and financial records won’t be available until the sale is official. However, according to several people familiar with the situation, the list of prospective buyers for the NBA franchise includes several high-profile candidates. Some, according to one source, have already visited Philips Arena.
The sale of the Hawks will be handled by Goldman Sachs and Inner Circle Sports. They will be responsible for vetting prospective buyers. According to one source, the process will likely take several months with April as a possible target date to finalize an agreement. A buyer must also be approved by the NBA.
According to sources, those who have expressed a level of interest include:
* Jason Levian. The former Memphis Grizzlies CEO left the organization in May. He is a co-owner of the MLS franchise D.C. United.
* Steve Kaplan: The Los Angeles-based investor joined Robert Pera’s group as a limited investor to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies. He has reportedly made attempts to buy baseball’s San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers in recent years.
Levian and Kaplan are working as part of the same group.
* Sheldon Adelson: The billionaire businessman is the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
* Byran Colangelo: The former President and CEO of the Toronto Raptors. The son of Jerry Colangelo, he was the NBA’s 2005 and 2007 Executive of the Year.
* Grant Hill: The former NBA player and current analyst joined Antony Ressler and Bruce Karsh with a $1.2 billion failed bid to by the Los Angeles Clippers. Hill deflected questions about his interest in the Hawks during a recent segment on NBA TV.
Others have stepped forward according to published reports. In an ESPN report Tuesday, Sodo arena investor Chris Hansen and film producer Thomas Tull are planning separate offers and each hope to relocate the team to Seattle. Hanson recently tried to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle last year. Tull, a partial owner of football’s Pittsburgh Steelers, is Chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures.
Current Hawks ownership and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed have previously stated their intentions to keep the Hawks in Atlanta when sold. The NBA’s stance, since the Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City, has been relocation will be considered only if the market gives up on team. That is not the case with the sale of the Hawks.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass told the AJC Wednesday, “The Atlanta Hawks are not moving to another market.”
Reed spokeswoman Anne Torres said the mayor isn’t concerned over the reports, comparing the sale process to a flight that has turbulence but ultimately lands safely.
“When he initially met with the NBA commissioner over selling the team, the commissioner assured him that one of the requirements of the sale would be that the team would stay in Atlanta,” Torres said. “He’s confident that will happen.”
The AJC has previously reported others with an interest in an ownership stake in the Hawks. Former NBA players Dikembe Mutombo and Chris Webber, who has stated his intent publically, have expressed such an interest. New York-based entertainment lawyer Doug Davis, the son of the legendary musician Clive Davis, is also believed to have interest. Davis did not respond to a request for an interview.
According to sources, Jesse Itzler, the entrepreneur and former rapper who has done some consulting work for the Hawks, is a prospective investor. He attends many home games and has previously considered a minor interest in the team. According to sources, his current interest would be as a minority owner. He is married to Sara Blakley, the founder of Spanxx.
In a recent Atlanta Business Chronicle report, WNBA Atlanta Dream owners Kelly Loeffler and Mary Brock “would be interested in exploring the possibility” on an ownership stake in the Hawks.
Staff writer Katie Leslie contributed to this report.