Grant Hill part of group pursuing Hawks, source says

Bloomberg News

Former National Basketball Association players Junior Bridgeman and Grant Hill are leading a group that will bid on the Atlanta Hawks, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.

They've hired New York-based advisory firm Galatioto Sports Partners to explore a purchase, said the person, who requested anonymity because the matter is private.

Hill didn't immediately return an e-mail seeking comment. Sal Galatioto, founder of Galatioto Sports Partners, declined to comment.

The Hawks today said in a statement its owners unanimously approved a plan to sell the franchise that a group led by Bruce Levenson bought for $189 million in 2004. The operating rights to Philips Arena are also for sale, according to the statement.

Levenson in September said he would sell the club following the disclosure of what the team called an "offensive" e-mail. Levenson said he made stereotyped assumptions about fans' interests and beliefs, such as that white fans might be afraid of black fans, in a 2012 e-mail that examined why the Hawks were having difficulty drawing white season-ticket holders.

The team has retained Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Inner Circle Sports to run the sale.

Bridgeman, 61, played 12 NBA seasons from 1975-87, including 10 with the Milwaukee Bucks. A forward, he averaged 13.6 points and 3.5 rebounds for his career.

After retiring Bridgeman purchased five Milwaukee-area Wendy's franchises, and his portfolio in the hamburger chain has since grown to 240 stores, making him the second-largest franchise owner in the country, according to Sports Illustrated. Bridgeman's net worth is at least $200 million, according to SI.com.

Hill, a seven-time All-Star and now the managing principal of investment firm Penta Mezzanine, was part of a group that unsuccessfully tried to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, which went to former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.

The Hawks are worth $425 million, according to Forbes, which made its valuation before the record-shattering sale of the Clippers. Ballmer paid almost four times the previous record for an NBA team.

Levenson's e-mail wasn't the only misstep for the Hawks, whose General Manager, Danny Ferry, took an indefinite leave of absence in the wake of using a racist remark while evaluating a free-agent player. While discussing Luol Deng, Ferry during a conference call with the team's limited partners said the veteran had "some African in him." Deng signed with the Miami Heat.

The Hawks are 27-8, tops in the Eastern Conference.