April 22, 2015 / 8:09 PM / 3 years ago

Deal in works for sale of NBA's Atlanta Hawks: reports

ATLANTA (Reuters) - The NBA’s Atlanta Hawks are in the process of being sold for more than $700 million to a group led by businessman Antony Ressler, several media outlets reported on Wednesday.

Reports of the deal come after the team’s majority owner, Bruce Levenson, put it up for sale after the release last year of a racially charged email he sent to team officials.

The pending sale, which Reuters was unable to confirm with either the Hawks or the National Basketball Association, includes Philips Arena, where the team plays, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The sale price was reported by media as between $730 million and $850 million, with the Journal-Constitution saying it had not yet been finalized. The Hawks are in the first round of the NBA playoffs after finishing first in the Eastern Conference.

The sale would mark the end of a saga that began with the publication last September of a 2012 email from Levenson, in which he said the team’s ticket sales were lagging because its black fan base was keeping whites away from games.

The comments came to light as the NBA was embroiled in a scandal over recordings of then-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist comments to a female friend. Levenson had emerged as a major Sterling critic.

The Hawks’ general manager, Danny Ferry, has also been on indefinite leave since last September after making racially insensitive remarks during a conference call.

After Levenson’s email became public, he quickly handed control of the team over to its chief executive officer, Steve Koonin.

The NBA in January approved plans to sell the franchise and it was announced the team would remain in Atlanta.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office declined to comment on word of the pending sale.

Ressler, co-founder of Ares Management LP, an investment firm, was a finalist to purchase the Clippers last spring. His spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Former NBA All-Star Grant Hill is among the minority shareholders in Ressler’s ownership group, the Journal-Constitution reported.

Additional reporting by Amrutha Gayathri in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Peter Cooney

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