Bruce Levenson Scores Big Sale of Atlanta HawksOctober 21, 2015 - Author: steph - No Comments
Bruce Levenson has been the owner of the Atlanta Hawks for the past eleven years and in that time he has gone a long way toward turning the franchise around. Atlanta had spent the majority of the ’90s as one of the biggest ‘almost good’ teams in the NBA. However, the Eastern Conference in the ’90s was no joke because of a legendary player by the name of Michael Jordan. So when Levenson came into majority ownership in the early aughts, he knew that it was his time to make the team a juggernaut again. His work paid off and that’s what we’ll take a look back at before digging into the team sale.
A Look at the Past
When Levenson took over the Hawks they were coming off of a 28 – 54 finish under head coach Terry Stotts and that was followed by a 13 – 69 finished under coach Mike Woodson. Needless to say, there was a lot left to be desired. Fan attendance had tanked and the Hawks were ranked 29th in the entire league in tickets sold. A lack of veteran talent or young up and comers made the franchise hard to pay any attention to. The only viable player on the roster was a small forward named Josh Smith, who was a rookie in that disastrous 13 – 69 season.
Knowing that the Hawks needed a reason for fans to tun tune in, Levenson quickly pulled out his check book and prepped to sign some big payments. The Hawks went ahead and grabbed 4 year vet Joe Johnson off of Free Agency and then spent a #1 pick on Marvin Williams (whoops). Immediately the team improved by double digit wins behind Johnson’s 20 PPG and borderline elite ISO ability. Josh Smith started to grow into his own and soon things were on the move. A few years later we saw Atlanta grab Al Horford, and then Jeff Teague, and the rest was history.
The Antony Ressler Era
With the Hawks finally on the up-and-up, having gone to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014, it was time for Levenson to get on his way. NBA franchises were being sold like hotcakes in the past few years as we saw both the L.A. Clippers and Milwaukee Brewers find new owners. Add in the change in scenery for Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) and Charlotte (formerly New Orleans) and the market was right for more change. Antony Ressler, a billionaire real estate mogul and entrepreneur, set his sights on the Atlanta Hawks.
Ressler had previously tried to buy the L.A. Clippers but his buying group was outbid by Steve Ballmer and his $2 million offer. Ressler is a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers so he knows his way around a sport franchise. When Ressler heard that the Hawks were available he and his buying group immediately got involved. Alongside former NBA star Grant Hill, Ressler ended up paying close to $850 million for majority ownership rights to the team.