Group Led By Tony Ressler Buying Hawks For Approximately $730 Million

An investment group led by Ares Management co-founder Tony Ressler is buying the Hawks of Atlanta.

The International Business Times is reporting that the price for buying the Hawks was $730 million. Ressler’s group includes former NBA player Grant Hill, who will serve as chairman of the team.

Ressler, 55, made his fortune in finance and became a billionaire after his Ares Management LP’s initial public stock offering in 2014. His net worth is approximately $1.43 billion, ranking him as the 1,250th richest person in the world and number 418 in the United States. His company, based in Los Angeles, employs 700 persons and has a net worth of $74 million in offices worldwide.

Ressler has had a known interest in owning a sports team but was not able to acquire full interest until buying the Hawks. He had a minority interest in the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2005. He then tried to acquire the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and lost out to Steve Ballmer in an attempt to buy the Los Angeles Clippers. Ballmer, a former Microsoft CEO, bought the Clippers for $2 billion.

Buying the Hawks seems fortuitous right now. The Hawks are currently the number one-ranked team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, having compiled a 60-22 record. The unexpected success this season caught many people by surprise.

Bloomberg is reporting that the party buying the Hawks includes Hill, private-equity investor Richard Schnall, Spanx Inc. founder Sara Blakely, and her husband, Jesse Itzler. Ressler will be investing personally in the Hawks, the person said. The group is also assuming approximately $120 million dollars in arena debt.

“We are honored and thrilled to have been chosen to become the new stewards of the Hawks,” Ressler said in a team release. “We are incredibly excited by the Hawks’ success and wish them luck in the playoffs.”

Sports consultant Marc Ganis said Ressler would be a great owner.

“This is a guy who has done his due diligence and is coming in with the intent on running a great franchise,” said Ganis, founder of SportsCorp Ltd. “He wants to run a basketball team because he wants to run a basketball team — not because he wants to be a real estate or media mogul.”

Ganis also said buying the Hawks for $730 million makes sense, though the Hawks were valued at $825 million, 22nd of the 30 NBA teams.

“This is not one of the higher-value teams in the NBA,” he said. “It is playing in an older arena in a market that has shown limited support for its sports franchises. The fact that it’s going in the mid-sevens is a testament to the strength of the NBA.”

Ressler group buying the Hawks brings Bruce Levenson’s tenure as owner to a tragic end. Levenson agreed to sell the Hawks when a 2012 e-mail he composed was publicly released. In the e-mail, Levenson made insensitive racial comments about the culture and breakdown of races in the Hawks’ fan base.

[Image courtesy of New York Post]