Arthur Blank sells limited share of Falcons for about $300 million

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank walks on the field before the NFL Super Bowl 53 Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank walks on the field before the NFL Super Bowl 53 Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

NFL finance committee approved the transaction

Falcons owner Arthur Blank has sold a 10 percent share of the team to two current limited partners and one new limited partner, a team spokesman confirmed.

The NFL owners, who are gathered in Phoenix for the annual spring league meeting, approved the transaction Monday. The deal is estimated to be worth $300 million of the franchise’s worth, which is projected at $3 billion.

The NFL Finance Committee and full ownership has approved the private transaction that transfers a minority percentage of the Falcons’ ownership to one new limited partner, Alan Kestenbaum, and to two existing limited partners: Doug Hertz and Ron Canakaris.

The other limited partners include Warrick Dunn, Derek Smith, Ed Mendel and Brian Barker.

Kestenbaum, a Canadian Steel company chief executive officer, was a bidder for the Carolina Panthers last season. The Panthers were sold for $2.2 billion to David Tepper.

Kestenbaum has more than 30 years of experience in the metals and mining production, trading, distribution and finance business, according to Stelco’s website.

“He has extensive investing and operating experience in the natural resources sectors as well as a successful track record in turnarounds and restructurings,” according to his bio on the website.

Blank remains the team’s principal owner and retains a clear majority of ownership.

“It’s a relatively minor transaction,” the spokesman said.

John A. Williams, a seminal Georgia developer who was a limited partner of the franchise since 2008, died suddenly in April 2018.

The three limited partners are purchasing all of Williams’ former shares in the team.

Williams, 75, founded an iconic Atlanta company, Post Properties, in 1970. It had more than 30,000 apartments. He took Post Properties public as an REIT in 1993 and left the company in 2003.

Blank bought the Falcons in 2002 for $545 million.

In April 2018, Forbes valued the team at $2.6 billion.

The Falcons’ valuation increased with the opening of the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, site of the 2019 Super Bowl. The Falcons’ local NFL revenue was up 70 percent.

The team’s low concession prices have been a hit with fans, some of whom had to purchase personal seat licenses — for as high as $45,000 — for the right just to buy tickets.

Since Blank acquired the Falcons, the team has made the playoffs eight times in 17 seasons.

Three years before Blank purchased the Falcons, the club averaged about 37,000 season ticket holders per year. Since 2002, the Falcons have never sold fewer than 50,000 season tickets in any year.

Additionally, during the same period, the club sold out 110 of 112 regular season games and closed out the former Georgia Dome with a streak of eight consecutive sellout seasons.

However, the Falcons announced average attendance of 72,898 at their eight regular-season home games last season, but actually drew almost 9,000 fewer per game to the stadium — an average of 64,022. Three times during a disappointing season, the Falcons' real attendance was more than 11,000 below the announced figure. For the home finale, the crowd was 15,614 fewer than announced.

The team announces tickets distributed verses an actual turnstile count of fans in the building.