In October 2015, while the world prepared for the return of Lebron James to Cleveland, the post-Lebron Miami Heat, and all other things Lebron, the Atlanta Hawks quietly began what would be their best regular season ever. By the All-Star break, they had amassed a 43-11 record and sent four players to the All-Star Game. By the end of the season the Hawks had set a franchise record with 60 wins to take the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They eventually lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to Lebron’s Miami Heat, but it was their best playoff finish in over 40 years.
Despite the stellar season, the Hawks finished 17th in the league in attendance per game and actually lost money on the season. Following a season in which they lost in the first round of the playoffs after squeaking in with a sub-.500 record, fans may not have expected much from their team. Additionally, despite making the playoffs every season since 2007, Atlanta had not passed the second round in 48 years. The team’s owners hope that an influx of young talent, combined with the dramatic improvement in team performance under Coach Mike Budenholzer since his hire in 2013, will see an increase in season ticket sales going into the 2015-2016 season.
Co-owner Bruce Levenson has been coordinating the sale of his share in the team since early 2015, with the sale being approved by the NBA Board of Governors in June 2015. After starting his post-law school career as a journalist for the Washington Star, Levenson co-founded United Communications Group (UCG) in 1977. UCG is a business information company that provides news and analysis for multiple industries. In 2004, Levenson was part of a group of businessmen that purchased the Atlanta Hawks and operate the team’s home, Phillips Arena. Outside of his business ventures, Levenson maintains an active philanthropic life, donating to countless charities and participating with such organization as the Hoop Dreams Foundation and the Community Foundation of Washington, D.C.
The new ownership group has hit the ground running, negotiating new local and national TV deals, and initiating discussions with local Fortune 500 companies about investment opportunities. As a condition of the sale, the team is to remain in Atlanta, so the new owners are looking to get other local businesses involved in the team’s success. After a franchise-best 60 win season, the accumulation of a slew of young talent being developed by a new coach, and the takeover by a new ownership team looking to lead the franchise to NBA and financial success, the Atlanta Hawks appear set to excel in a strong Eastern Conference this upcoming season.