|Industry||Sports, property management|
|Products||Professional sports teams, arenas|
(Majority Owner: Bruce Levenson & Michael Gearon Jr. )
Atlanta Spirit LLC (now known as Atlanta Hawks, LLC) is an Atlanta, Georgia-based parent company of the holder of the franchise of the Atlanta Hawks ("Hawks" or "Team"), a professional basketball team in the NBA and of the operator of their home arena, Philips Arena. Atlanta Spirit LLC changed its name to Atlanta Hawks, LLC on March 14, 2014.
Atlanta Spirit LLC was originally composed of three companies: a Boston-based company (run by Steve Belkin), an Atlanta-based company (composed of J. Rutherford Seydel, Todd Foreman, J. Michael Gearon, Sr., Beau Turner and Bud Seretean) and a Washington, D.C.-based company (composed of Bruce Levenson, Ed Peskowitz and Todd Foreman). The Boston-based company was bought out by the Atlanta and Washington, D.C. groups in 2010 following conflicts between the three groups.
Bud Seretean died in 2007. In 2014, Levenson announced he would sell his share of the company; however, by January 2015, every partner in the ownership group agreed to sell their stakes in the team, putting the entire franchise up for sale.
In the summer of 2005, the Atlanta Hawks finalized a trade with the Phoenix Suns to obtain shooting guard Joe Johnson for Boris Diaw and two protected future first-round picks. While this trade met with the approval of the majority of the ownership group, it was rejected by Belkin, who held a controlling vote as the Hawks Governor within the group. This triggered legal proceedings to force Belkin out of the group. On December 23, 2010, the group led by Gearon and Levenson announced they had bought out Belkin's ownership share in Atlanta Spirit. This elevated the Washington-based company shares to more than 50 percent and effective control of the group.
On September 7, 2014, the company's majority owner Bruce Levenson announced he would sell his interest in the company. Levenson explained the reason was a racially insensitive e-mail he sent to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry in 2012, saying that the team's low ticket sales were due to the Hawks attracting an African American fanbase that alienated the white suburbanites. He opted to share the e-mail with the NBA on July 2014, during the lawsuits that led the league to take the Los Angeles Clippers from Donald Sterling, as the emergence of such a discrimination-related debacle made Levenson "remorseful for using those hurtful words". On January 2, 2015, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that all partners in the ownership group would join Levenson and sell their minority stakes, effectively putting the entire franchise up for sale. Goldman Sachs and Inner Circle Sports LLC is handling the sale of the team, the operating rights to Philips Arena, and the remaining debt on the arena. Per NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the Hawks are expected to remain in Atlanta as a condition of their sale.
Many have criticized ASG's handling of the Thrashers; Jeff Schultz of the AJC said that "it’s no secret that the Spirit has always cared more about basketball." ASG said they had "no other choice" to sell the Thrashers, even though they weren't "under the gun" of the NHL like the Phoenix Coyotes were. After the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment Schultz put out another article further criticizing ASG's management of the team "which has long lost any semblance of credibility".
Although Ted Turner is not a part of this group, there are many connections to him: Beau Turner is the youngest son of Ted Turner. J. Rutherford Seydel is a son-in-law of Ted Turner., Michael Gearon Sr. was the general manager (1977–79), president (1977–1986) and chairman of the board (1986–2004) of the Atlanta Hawks under Turner's ownership and Seretean was also a former president and general manager of the Hawks (1975–77) and a former board member of Turner Broadcasting System.
- Seretean Bio
- Philips Arena press release
- Hawks-Thrashers co-owner must pay $2 million by next week
- Vivlamore, Chris. "Breaking News: 100 percent of Hawks up for sale (updated)". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
- Atlanta-Spirit Group Lawsuit Settled, What Does it Mean for The Hawks? - Peachtree Hoops
- blogs.ajc.com[dead link]
- Bruce Levenson will sell Atlanta Hawks after releasing racist e-mail
- "Hawks owners unanimously approve plan to sell team". Fox Sports. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- Money magazine article
- Bloomberg article
- Gearon Bio