Bruce Levenson and the Sale of the Atlanta Hawks
Bruce Levenson is an American businessman and entrepreneur based out of Maryland. He received his Bachelor’s from Washington University in addition to his law degree from American University. Levenson co-founded United Communication Group (UCG) in 1977 where he still plays a major part in the strategic side of the business. UCG provides data, news, and analysis for a number of different industries. In addition to his role at United Communication Group, Forbes’ Bruce Levenson is heavily involved with various philanthropic efforts including the “I Have a Dream Foundation.” In 2004, Levenson and his partners bought the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers and the operating rights to Philips Arena for approximately $250 Million. The group subsequently sold the Thrashers in 2011 for $170 Million. During his time leading the Hawks, the team has reached the playoffs every year from the 2007-2008 season to the 2014-2015 season. They were able to reach the Conference Semi Finals three times and the Conference Finals once.
It is rare for NBA teams to be brought to market. However in 2013, TIBCO founder Vivek Ranadivé bought the Sacramento Kings and Sleep Train Arena for a then record franchise valuation of $534 Million. This trend continued in 2014 as two more teams were sold. The Milwaukee Bucks, regarded as the least valuable firm in the NBA, were sold for $550 Million. The Los Angeles Clippers were then acquired by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 Billion. These sales in addition to lucrative new television deals have caused the value of NBA franchises to grow exponentially.
In 2013, the Atlanta Hawks were valued at approximately $450 Million. The following year, after the sale of the Bucks and the Clippers, Bruce Levenson decided to sell his share of the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena. Subsequent to his announcement, the minority shareholder groups also decided to sell. They hired Goldman Sachs and Inner Circle Sports who thought the sale could bring a price close to $1 Billion. They put the team up for bid and it was eventually sold to a group led by Antony Ressler for approximately $850 Million including the assumption of debt. Ressler is the owner of Ares, which is a private equity and real estate development firm. He was previously a minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks and had tried to buy the Los Angeles Clippers but he was outbid by Steve Ballmer. His purchase group also included former NBA player Grant Hill, Rick Schnall, Sara Blakely and Jesse Itzler.