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Atlanta Hawks sale finalized

Atlanta HawksThe Atlanta Hawks sale to a group led by philanthropist Antony Ressler that also includes former NBA star Grant Hill has been finalized, with both sides agreeing to a purchase price close to $750 million.

The Hawks hit the market when a racially inflammatory email from controlling owner Bruce Levenson was public, and public outcry forced the lead ownership group, Atlanta Spirit, to announce a sale of their stake in the NBA franchise. Other owners who held smaller stakes also announced their intent to sell, leading to negotiations with several groups before the Ressler group emerged as the leading contender to land the team. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting the sale is close to completion:

Ressler, 55, is a co-founder of two private equity firms, Apollo Global Management and Ares Management. He is also a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. According to Forbes, he is worth approximately $1.43 billion dollars.

According to several people familiar with the situation, the ownership group also includes former NBA player Grant Hill, co-founder of Marquis Jets Jesse Itzler and his wife Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanxx. Current co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. will also retain a small percentage of the franchise. The group will also include several other minority investors. Itzler is a season-ticket holder for the Hawks and has done consulting work for the organization. Hill was seen at Philips Arena offices earlier this week.

The Hawks and the NBA have not confirmed the agreement, which is expected to be announced in the next day or two. The office of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed would not comment on the pending sale.

One small thing to note: the sale does not include Philips Arena, but rather the lease to Philips Arena, which is publicliy owned by an arena authority.

The purchase price has been the subject of much speculation in NBA circles, with many expecting the Hawks to bring a $1 billion price tag, given the sales price of other teams in recent months and upcoming boosts in TV money. And the $750 million price tag is not final; the two sides are still negotiating a final figure that depends on who assumes what debt.

The Hawks sold for $189 million in 2004, by the way.

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