NBA Board of Governors unanimously approves sale of Hawks

The NBA Board of Governors on Wednesday unanimously approved the sale of the Atlanta Hawks to an ownership group led by entrepreneur Antony Ressler.

"We are pleased that the NBA's Board of Governors has approved the purchase of the Atlanta Hawks by principal owner Tony Ressler," commissioner Adam Silver said. "Tony and his diverse and experienced ownership group will bring tremendous energy and passion to the Hawks and the team and its fans will greatly benefit from their commitment to the Atlanta community."

Ressler and his partners, including existing Hawks partner Steven Price and former NBA player Grant Hill, agreed to purchase the Hawks for approximately $850 million, including debt obligations, in April. The deal includes the operating rights to Philips Arena.

Ressler, an owner of private equity and investment firm Ares and a real estate developer, was one of three finalists in the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014. He will continue to live in Los Angeles.

The Hawks went on the market in January following the publication in September of an email written by principal owner Bruce Levenson in 2012 that expressed concern that large numbers of African-American spectators at his team's games were driving away more affluent, middle-aged, white, suburban fans.

"My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base," Levenson wrote.

Levenson effectively was forced into exile, along with general manager Danny Ferry, whose racially insensitive comments on a conference call also were made public. The Hawks and Ferry reached a buyout agreement last week that will pay Ferry more than the balance of the remaining three years on his contract.

The Hawks are expected to announce shortly that coach Mike Budenholzer, who has presided as the senior executive in basketball operations since September, will remain in that role under the title of team president. Assistant general manager Wes Wilcox will be promoted to general manager, sources said. Steve Koonin, the Hawks' CEO, will continue to serve in that capacity.

Ressler and Hill will introduce themselves to the media on Thursday morning at Philips Arena.