By Patrick Hickey –
The news leaked Wednesday that a group led by private equity billionaire Anthony Ressler would be purchasing the Atlanta Hawks for a price of roughly $730 million. Ressler’s group, which includes former NBA star Grant Hill and Jesse Itzler, husband of Spanx founder Sara Blakely, emerged late in the bidding process to secure a deal which many have called a steal. Most projections saw the team being sold for upwards of $800 million, with some wondering if competing bids might push the final sale all the way to $1 billion.
Ressler made his fortune by co-founding a pair of private equity firms, Apollo Global Management in 1990, followed by Ares Management in 1997. He was part of a group that bid on the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014, but ultimately fell short as the franchise was purchased by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
The group is likely to retain current team CEO Steve Koonin, who has run the organization for the past year, as well as 2014/15 NBA Coach of the Year winner Mike Budenholzer. No word yet on the fate of GM Danny Ferry, who built what has become a first place Hawks team but was banished after being caught reading a racist scouting report about a prospective free agent.
Most onlookers expected a sale to come later in the summer, but a sped up timeline could solidify the Hawks front office as the team looks to make its first ever Eastern Conference Finals appearance. The Hawks are currently leading the Brooklyn Nets 2-0 in their first round series, with game three scheduled for 2:30 in New York.