Bruce Levenson partnered with Ed Peskowitz to take on the role as co-founder when they created the United Communications Group (UGC). During the last 27 years, Levenson helped to sustain UCG’s strategic business plans which resulted in achieving outstanding results for the firm. Before founding UCG, he was a writer for the Washington Star and Observer Publishing and also served on the Board of Directors of the Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association. Years later, Levinson gained ownership of the Atlanta Hawks and the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers. He also acquired operating rights to Philips Arena, Gearon, and other partners for $250 million in 2004. The Thrashers eventually moved to Winnipeg.
Last September, Levenson announced his intention to sell its 50.1% share of the Hawks team as well as operating rights to Philips Arena. In line with this decision, they hired Goldman Sachs and Inner Circle Sports in October to look for interested groups during the sales process. Goldman Sachs predicted that the team’s franchise and arena’s operating rights could generate at least $1 billion.
The lengthy sales process took seven long months before a prospect for the next ownership of the Hawks finally emerged. According to several people who are familiar with the process, Hawks ownership group finalized the sale of the team to a group led by Antony Ressler. This equity and investment fund manager teamed up with former NBA All-Star Grant Hill, Rick Schnall, Jesse Itzler and his wife, Sara Blakely. This group was reported to have recently purchased the Hawks from Bruce Levenson, Michael Gearon Jr., and other partners for $850 million. The said sources were anonymous because they are not authorized to speak in public due to nondisclosure agreements signed by Hawks ownership and prospective buyers.
The auction ended with a $730 million bid by a group managed by AresManagement LP’s billionaire co-founder Tony Ressler. A year ago he also planned to acquire the Los Angeles Clippers but his group did not go up against the $2 billion offer made by Steve Ballmer. Ressler, who is also a real estate developer, was included among the three finalists in the Los Angeles Clippers sale during the last spring. The 55-year-old billionaire was part of the investment firm led by Mark Attanasio that purchased the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005.
Ressler mentioned in a statement that he is honored and thrilled to be the new stewards of the Hawks. He also added that he respects the process of approval by the NBA and that he is excited by the success of Hawks in the playoffs. Some deals from local and national TV promised to provide assistance in the financial situation of the franchise while the new owners will do their best to draw investment from Fortune 500 companies that will generate income. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer and CEO Steve Koonin will work together with the new ownership group in reaching their long-term plans.