|Industry||Sports, property management|
|Products||Professional sports teams, arenas|
(Majority Owner: Bruce Levenson & Michael Gearon Jr. )
Atlanta Spirit, LLC is an Atlanta, Georgia-based partnership who owns the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and operates their home arena, Philips Arena. The seven partners who comprise the group are Michael Gearon, Jr., Bruce Levenson, Ed Peskowitz, J. Rutherford Seydel, Todd Foreman, J. Michael Gearon, Sr., and Beau Turner. Levenson, Peskowitz and Foreman, who are headquartered in Washington, D.C., work outside of Atlanta. The group originally had nine partners, with Steve Belkin leaving in 2005 following conflicts with the other members, and Bud Seretean dying in 2007.
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. Bud Seretean was also a former president and general manager of the Hawks (1975–77) and a former board member of Turner Broadcasting System.
In 2005, Atlanta Spirit bought the Atlanta Thrashers, Atlanta Hawks, and operating rights to Philips Arena from Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System. The Thrashers deal involved contracts so long and thick that they were placed in six binders. The investors of ASG had to sign 372 times.
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.
Many have criticized ASG's handling of the Thrashers; Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution 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".
- Philips Arena press release
- Hawks-Thrashers co-owner must pay $2 million by next week
- Money magazine article
- Bloomberg article
- Gearon Bio
- Seretean Bio