Atlanta Hawks Owners No Longer Selling the Team, for Now

After the sale of the Hawks to businessman Alex Meruelo fell apart over the summer, the owners of Atlanta’s pro hoops team claim that they’re very happy to still be owning the franchise, and are no longer looking for buyers. Reports the AJC: “The Hawks will open their lockout-delayed season on Tuesday after a turbulent off-season in which the Spirit ownership group agreed to sell the team to Meruelo, a Los Angeles businessman, and then had the deal fall apart. That leaves the would-be sellers back in the owners’ seats. ‘I’m very pleased with where things ended up,’ Michael Gearon Jr., a member of the ownership group, said. ‘We are excited about the start of the season.’ Gearon attributed the attempt to sell the Hawks to the ‘draining’ experiences of a five-year legal battle with former part-owner Steve Belkin and this year’s sale and relocation of the Thrashers, the hockey team that was purchased along with the Hawks in 2004. But when the Meruelo deal collapsed in the NBA approval process last month, the ownership group -– led by Bruce Levenson, a Maryland businessman who serves as the Hawks’ NBA governor, and Gearon, a lifelong Atlantan –- announced it was removing the for-sale sign from the basketball franchise. ‘At the beginning of the summer … I was just drained and exhausted,’ Gearon said. ‘I was emotionally spent. I thought maybe a new face [as owner] might make a difference. By being able to step back over the summer, [I was able to] get recharged, get energized again.’ Gearon said the owners no longer have investment bankers seeking a buyer for the Hawks. ‘We just told them, ‘Stop everything,’ he said. ‘If somebody comes and offers you something, you never know, but [selling] is not what my goal is, no,’ he added. Gearon said owning one team will be more manageable than owning two, and that settling the legal disputes with Belkin last year and law firm King & Spalding this fall will help emotionally. And he is guardedly hopeful that the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and revenue-sharing arrangement will prove advantageous to the Hawks, who say they have lost money for years.”