Hawks’ sale positive but does Gearon’s role ensure Ferry’s exit?

The NBA has approved the sale of the Hawks to billionaire Tony Ressler (here with his wife, actress Jami Gertz). (Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images)

 

The Hawks are finalizing the sale of the team with billionaire Antony Ressler (left, with his wife, actress Jami Gertz). (Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images)

The Hawks are finalizing the sale of the team to group led by Antony Ressler, here with wife and actress Jami Gertz. (Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images)

New owners. New hope?

After killing a hockey franchise and providing Atlanta with one of the worst ownership tenures in (semi-)professional sports history, the former partners of the Atlanta Spirit have agreed to sell the Hawks and operating rights to Philips Arena to Antony Ressler, a co-founder of two private equity firms and minority of the Milwaukee Brewers.

He’s also billionaire, but that was pretty much a given.

Nobody knows if Ressler will be a great owner. We can only safely assume he won’t be the clown show that his predecessors were. Even when the Spirit partners did something right by hiring Danny Ferry as general manager, they managed to have that decision unravel into a national embarrassment: The regrettable Ferry scouting call, the Levenson race-infused email, the ensuing indefinite “leave of absence” (wink, wink) by Ferry and sudden decision to sell (wink, wink) by Levenson.

The sale price reportedly is $800 million. Hawks’ executives hoped the team would sell for more than $1 billion. They’ll live.

Ressler’s arrival should be cause for celebration in Atlanta sports.

Only two obstacles stand in the way that:

• Final approval: We were down this road before with California developer and pizza boy Alex Meruelo, who thought he had a deal for the Hawks in October of 2011. Then it turned out Meruelo didn’t have enough money. That can be a problem in pro sports league, except possibly the NHL.

• The Gearon Factor: According to Chris Vivlamore’s story, Michael Gearon Jr. will retain a minority stake in the team. This can’t be good, unless he is tied in a corner with his mouth duct-taped shut.

Now, it’s certainly possible that in a group including Ressler (billionaire), former NBA star Grant Hill (high profile, high character, potential face of ownership),

The issue here is Ferry? I’ve never had a strong sense the Hawks will bring him back. Hill’s presence, as another former Duke player, could bode well for Ferry.

But if the Hawks decide to keep Ferry, how would Gearon feel about it? Would he make noise again, as he did when a member of the Levenson group tried to orchestrate Ferry’s return this season?

Gearon’s presence is the lone fly-in-the-ointment in this thing. Otherwise, there’s no reason to believe Atlanta can’t officially move on from one of the ugliest and most painful chapters in the city’s sports’ history. And the angels sing.

There will only be a black hole where an NHL team used to exist.

Some recent ramblings from the digital jukebox
— AJC: Poll: Should Falcons pursue Adrian Peterson, Randy Gregory?
— MyAJC: Falcons’ risk-reward scale may tip in new direction
— AJC: Budenholzer wins coaching honor, and it shouldn’t have been close
— AJC: Millsap, Sefolosha, Horford — what’s going on with Hawks?
— MyAJC: Hawks need a better Millsap for long playoff run
— MyAJC: Budenholzer knows what playoff success is all about
— MyAJC: Hawks hoping to leave Atlanta playoff wreckage behind
— AJC: Hawks lose lottery pick but get better playoff match-up: Nets
— MyAJC: Jordan Spieth: Perfect champion, perfect story
— AJC: Masters short takes: Spieth’s first major won’t be his last
— MyAJC: It’s a Masters Sunday, and here comes old Phil Mickelson
— AJC: Masters short takes: Spieth hopes to avoid Norman flashback
— MyAJC: Jordan Spieth toying with Augusta, Masters’ field
— MyAJC: Woods is back, or he’s not, or he is, or he’s not…
— MyAJC: On eve of final Masters, Ben Crenshaw embracing every moment
— MyAJC: Woods loose, confident, but is he really ready for Masters
— MyAJC: Braves stop the noise with opening victory
— AJC: Short takes: Small ball, Teheran, bullpen and a Braves’ win
— AJC: Braves’ deal saves budget (Upton) but drives nail in season (Kimbrel)
— MyAJC: Trade reaffirms Braves’ decision to go backward before forward
— MyAJC: With expectations low, at least Braves won’t underachieve
— AJC: Hawks’ biggest nightmare: Millsap suffers shoulder injury
— MyAJC: Hawks’ turnaround started with trade of Joe Johnson — and he knows it

Reader Comments 0

43 comments
jeeperscrow
jeeperscrow

They would be stupid to let Ferry go. Then again this is the Hawks.

Big Wally
Big Wally

....and while we're add it, get rid of Dominique, he was also behind the back stabbing of Ferry.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Gearon is the proverbial turd in the punchbowl.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Get rid of Gearon, and get rid of his sorry A$$ now.  We have a good thing going.  If Gearon had his way, we'd still have Larry Drew as a Coach, and Joe Johnson and Josh Smith.

Atlanta Man's Peachtree
Atlanta Man's Peachtree

On another issue Schultz, 

Your calling Alex Meruelo, the fifty-year old son of Cuban immigrants who fled Castro at great personal risk, a “pizza boy” is like calling the other-directed son of an overbearing insanely-protective mother a sissy boy. You do not want people to take you seriously but there is no place for slurs in the pages or blogs of the venerable AJC.  Meruelo is proud of his roots and all he has accomplished. Do not demean and dismiss a great Cuban American by calling him a “pizza boy.” Of all people, you should know better.

Wayne_stuck_in_AL
Wayne_stuck_in_AL

JEFF:

Do Gearon and Levenson have any clue as to how much they're hated by the Atlanta sports public, or are they (obviously) clueless?

Dirtyb8
Dirtyb8

@Wayne_stuck_in_AL I don't think they are intelligent enough to realize that. But I think its safe to say public hate Gearon even more. It is mainly because of this piece of trash that Ferry hasn't been reinstated yet.

Birdfanforlife
Birdfanforlife

Oh geez - not Gearon! New owners - please keep Ferry, Please! Please don't screw this up. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

Bring Ferry back!  Ride Gearson out of town on a rail....

58Supersports
58Supersports

@Dirtyb8  It was report yesterday. Jeff has it right.  Gearson is a disgrace to Hawks and Atlanta.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Jeff - I think Grant Hill bodes well for Ferry. Here's my hypothesis, which could be totally off:


1.  Perhaps Gearon did not want the tax hit from the sale and felt happier to double down with the new ownership

2.  Maybe he refused to sell and the only way to get the deal done was to let him maintain a stake, albeit a diluted one.


I think it's a sin that this jerk who is devoid of all ethics be permitted to maintain ownership.  However, my hope his that he is a VERY silent partner who has little to no influence on business and/or personnel decisions.   


I see Danny Ferry often - he has been ostracized and it's time he be brought back into the fold.  This is his roster.  He's done his time in purgatory and he has the backing of key stakeholders in the community, including the players.   Lets give him another chance and ensure this talented executive doesn't build a championship caliber roster somewhere else.

SouthGeorgiaStrong
SouthGeorgiaStrong

It would be a mistake to get rid of Ferry before he finished what he started, Look at the Hawks now. His Coach hire is Coach of the year. Love the team play, not some super star ball hog. Actually when I by a ticket I get to see a team having fun even with everything they went through. But you know if I was Ferry I might have to think twice........Love it " The Gearon Factor: According to Chris Vivlamore’s story, Michael Gearon Jr. will retain a minority stake in the team. This can’t be good, unless he is tied in a corner with his mouth duct-taped shut.

ByteMe
ByteMe

Free Danny Ferry!

Big Wally
Big Wally

His only responsibility should be to make sure there is enough toilet paper in the bathroom stalls. Outside of that, he should not have a say in anything.  Perhaps we should start a website.

GetridofGearon.com

Maavelous
Maavelous

While the principal owner lives his life in California, Gearon will be on duty in Atlanta. Sounds like a recipe for more of the same crap from the little weasel.

Big Wally
Big Wally

New owners need to force him out.  Gearon is nothing but a trouble maker.  If they keep this cancer around, they will be regretting that decision.

Dman
Dman

I know I don't have a say in this but as a fan I do have an opinion. I'm ok with the new buyer as long as he doesn't do the following;

1. Move the team

2. Build a new stadium when we don't need a new stadium so he can sell PSL's for $40k each

3. Raise the ticket prices by 200% in new said stadium

4. Fire Danny Ferry who put this winning team together

5. Get involved with the operation of the team

6. Stand on the sideline at the end of games

7. Or, getting involved with who we draft

If the new owner doesn't do these things, great!!! Then buy away and good luck to us all.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

Hey, Schultzie, are you talking about that hockey team that still hasn't won a playoff game, even though the pegboys said they were hockey geniuses? I wonder how much they like their terrible team now? We'll take the team back when they get sick of losing lol

Clark Seydel
Clark Seydel

Jeff Shultz instilling hate in individuals. Do you take pride? Gearon Jr is a great man and a great fan. The Atlanta piece of what is left of the Spirit is golden

afx
afx

@Clark Seydel  Gearon great man and fan? are you serious or you insane. just explain me how this great fan moved Thrashers from Atl. what about Ferry saga? what he is for sure greatest weasel litigating genius and clown. circus is best place for him, not ownerships sport franchise team. 

Atlanta Man's Peachtree
Atlanta Man's Peachtree

@Clark Seydel Tell me Clark just how Gearon is a great man, and how he contributed to the Hawks success? I am all ears. I have to say they don't come much slimier than Gearon Jr. But you gotta wonder where he picked up his skills from? As a long time Atlanta man, I have seen a lot in this town and have a memory from way back...(wink wink).

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Anyone giving the ASG credit for the Hawks current success is as daft as the ASG themselves. These guys are and will always be the laughing stock of professional sports ownership and will be examples of what not to do in sports management classes around the world. These guys are lucky they were born sucking on golden spoons as they wouldn't have made it anywhere in the REAL world on their own. These dolts certainly deserve each other.

patriotdog
patriotdog

If Gearon had been born into a middle class family, he'd be selling shoes in a mall or used cars on Buford Highway.

An idiot through and through, surely a group of self made billionaires including our own Sara Blakely can see him for what he is,

Big Wally
Big Wally

Gearon is a horrible piece of crap.  If it was up to Gearon, we'd still have Larry Drew as coach.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Will a liberal, Hollywood actress, wife decide the fate of Ferry? 

The one that most has the billionaire's ear, among other things.

Non-P.C. speech is worse than mass murder and terrorism to liberals. To them, it must be censored and the ones who dare such speech should be crucified. 

Their motto is long live free speech. Unless of course, we disagree with you.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

You win! Somehow you brought liberals into the equation, not to mention terrorism, free speech and all the other things you mentioned. You win!

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Gertz pinned to the wall in "Less than Zero"...Yawza!

odelljones
odelljones

The Atlanta Spirit will always be the joke in the history of sports in this city. Mama always said, "Stupid is as stupid does"and that description will be the epitaph of ASG.

SouthGeorgiaStrong
SouthGeorgiaStrong

Just leave Ferry Alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Talk about beating a dead horse.

DBoz
DBoz

The Hawks need to be cleansed of all of the ASG clowns. No need to follow them until Gearon is gone.

perk
perk

great article - love the sarcastic truths. Gearon ain't his sockless Dad. Ferry may NOT want to come back if Gearon is still active. Cleanse of all past impurities

MikeDunnIt
MikeDunnIt

1. Ferry should stay. 2. Gearon needs to be gone. ASAP. 

Atlanta Man's Peachtree
Atlanta Man's Peachtree

You talking about the same owners who brought the Hawks to a multitude of playoffs, who helped provide the team with what they needed to have their best record in history (wink wink).  Ferry came from the partners, and he brought in Coach Bud, it comes from the top (wink wink).  I really don't understand all this bitterness about the owners, except for Gearon, that makes all the sense in the world. Makes good copy, but the evidence for the principles shows something else. 

Gearon Must Go
Gearon Must Go

Sounds like you weren't a Thrashers fan so I'll leave that subject aside. Playoff appearances in this era's Eastern Conference aren't anything to brag about. The Hawks are 27th in payroll spending in the NBA. If "hiring Danny Ferry as GM" is your metric for determining how well they've done as owners, one of his biggest accomplishments was unloading the Joe Johnson contract. The contract whose existence the Atlanta Spirit were responsible for saddling the franchise with and which hobbled the team for years on and off the court (off the court via the Belkin mess and King & Spalding lawsuit). You should also consider that if Gearon remains a part-owner his is apparently not going to be a pro-Ferry voice. I'll give you that a lot of the bitterness towards these owners comes from what they did with the Thrashers but Hawks fans who never cared about the NHL should be glad to be rid of them, too, and should want entirely new ownership, based solely on what they've done with the Hawks.

nhlfan79
nhlfan79

@Atlanta Man's Peachtree What @Gearon Must Go said.  You can't herald the Hawks' relative success without acknowledging ASG's duplicity that led to it.  None of the recent on-the-court success happens without them first destroying the Thrashers, as the Belkin-less ASG no longer had the collective financial wherewithal to operate both franchises.  So, they killed one team in favor of their preferred one.

Atlanta Man's Peachtree
Atlanta Man's Peachtree

@Gearon Must Go 

You're right there,  I was no Thrashers fan. As a matter of fact, hockey cities and Atlanta were rarely mentioned together in the same article, much less sentence or paragraph. The Thrashers went home to Canada, so what? But, let me understand the rubric here, 27th in team spending AND the best record in the East is not a big deal? Oh and let's add 2-0 right now. Really? I think they made a movie out of this kind of genius with Brad Pitt called Money Ball. As I have followed the Hawks and this story, that comes from Levenson and co., not Gearon and co. and while we are on that subject, let's just say in my opinion, the apple does not fall far from the tree (wink wink) and there is more to Jr. than Jr.  But to sum up your argument, Levenson and co.  make the Hawks into a great team by providing them with what they need, rack up an incredible season and you say good riddance, and are angry? I am just a humble Hawks fan here but it seems to me the evidence points in the direction of the wrong guys out here. It is a crazy world when the people who helped build them into what they are today are driven out of town by a desire to sell papers.

Dick Kaminski
Dick Kaminski

Danny Ferry should stay at all costs!  The product you see on the court is the product of Danny Ferry including Coach Bud,  2015 Coach of the year.  The success of the Hawks is Danny Ferry!!!