Two years ago, when would-be Hawks and Thrashers owner David McDavid kicked Turner Broadcasting System’’s butt in court, I asked him about the Atlanta Spirit group. It was like lighting a blowtorch.
“Do you know what a camel is? It’s a horse designed by a committee,” McDavid said in that December 2008 interview. “Those franchises are being run by a committee. They’re a camel. If I had taken over, nobody would be fighting, unless I was fighting with myself. … Does that guarantee anything? No. But I will always believe I would have done a better job.”
On Monday night, when Turner confirmed McDavid’s butt-kicking by surrendering out of court, I phoned McDavid again. This time, I only got his phone machine.
“This is Cutter Mac. You know what to do,” the recorded greeting said.
My guess is, he was out celebrating. I just wanted to ask a few questions. Also maybe tell him he was my hero, which is something I never imagined saying to a used car salesman.
Follow this, will you? It’s a combination of Atlanta sports fans’ trail of tears and McDavid’s improbable road to new-found wealth and good fortune, not that he didn’t have that before.
♦ In 2003, McDavid was on the verge of purchasing the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena operating rights, signing a letter of intent. The sale price: $96 million.
♦ While McDavid stood at the front door, he didn’t realize Turner executives had slipped out the back door to negotiate the sale to a group of investors later to be known as the Atlanta Spirit (as well as less printable things). McDavid filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit.
♦ The Hawks and Thrashers floundered. Bruce Levenson, Steve Belkin, Michael Gearon and others came to set new standards for embarrassing ownership, even suing each other in court. They lost millions. Meanwhile, McDavid won his suit and was awarded $281 million. So not only did McDavid win a judgment for nearly triple of his intended purchase price, he didn’t lose the millions the Spirit did as the franchises struggled and the economy tanked.
♦ It is now 2010. Belkin and the non-Belkins still have not resolved their legal issues. The Hawks are better but both teams still are being run on tight budgets — particularly the Thrashers, who reportedly are available for purchase and will have one of the NHL’s lowest payrolls again next season. McDavid? Not only is he out of this mess, but Turner officially dropped its appeal of the $281 million judgment.
The two sides reached a settlement but terms were not disclosed.
“It’s been settled and we’re happy that it’s been resolved,” Mickey Mixson, McDavid’s attorney, said.
Atlanta sports fans can only wonder what might have been.
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