The time is right to sell the Atlanta Hawks, not only because the team is performing well, but so Bruce Levenson can escape scandal over racially charged emails that came public, as reported by Yahoo Sports.
Bruce Levenson and Washington partner Ed Peskowitz, who together own 50% of the team, are looking to sell the Hawks as well as operating rights to Philips arena. Mayor Kasim Reed wants the new owner to commit to keeping the Hawks in Atlanta for at least 30 years. The owner would have to pay a termination fee of $75 million if the Hawks leave Philips Arena before 2018-19.
After the Clippers were sold to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion after having been valued at just $575 million by Forbes the previous year, owners might have an itch to sell their teams. This is true for the Hawks specifically, as attendance to games is rising with the Hawks (27-8) enjoying the best record in the Eastern Conference.
So speaking of comparisons to Sterling, it is ironic that, given attendance rates are up, Hawks owner Bruce Levenson wrote a disturbing remark about race affecting attendance in an email that was disclosed during investigation of racist comments made by general manager Danny Ferry. In the email, Levenson said the team has struggled with attendance “because the black crowd scared away the whites.”
So Levenson, to resist going the way of Sterling, may want to drop the team like a hot potato. However, since few people are talking about it, it is unlikely to be a desperation sale at bargain basement prices. And in fact, Levenson tried to sell the team back in 2011 to California pizza chain owner Alex Meruelo, without success.