Atlanta Spirit settles lawsuit — this can only be good news

The Atlanta Spirit ownership group has seldom been one big happy family.

The Atlanta Spirit ownership group has seldom been one big happy family.

The Atlanta Spirit just took a significant step forward. They’re out of the courtroom.

Can world peace be far away?

The long-battling owners of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers announced in a brief statement that their lawsuit involving Steve Belkin and the other partners has been settled. There is no mention of Belkin or terms of the settlement in the statement.

The entire release:

SETTLEMENT REACHED IN OWNERSHIP LAWSUIT

Atlanta, GA, December 22, 2010 – The lawsuit among the owners of the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Thrashers has been settled.  Terms of the settlement are confidential.  Going forward, Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson will serve as managing partners of the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena.

The Spirit has seemed doom almost from the time the group officially purchased the Hawks, Thrashers and operating rights to Philips Arena in March of 2004 from Turner Broadcasting. The major split, between Belkin and the other owners (led by Michael Gearon Jr. and Bruce Levenson), occurred after the Hawks acquired Joe Johnson from the Phoenix Suns in 2005 over the objections of Belkin. The sides have been embroiled in litigation ever since, primarily over how much it would take for Belkin to be bought out of the ownership group.

Now that this is settled, it at least opens the door to front office matters in the two organizations being run more smoothly.

The Thrashers, in particular, have been hamstrung financially. They have the NHL’s lowest payroll and the Spirit has been seeking to bring in either a new partner or sell the club outright, which has fueled rumors of the club being moved.

The ownership has been such a mess that even NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took the Spirit to task, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last February:  “Ultimately, the ownership situation has to be straightened out. It’s difficult to operate a franchise when owners aren’t getting along. It’s even more difficult in a recession climate. A team has to be at its very best. Issues have to be resolved and everybody has to be together so they can interact with fans. But that’s difficult when the owners aren’t together.”

When a league commissioner calls you out, you’ve got issues.

The Spirit owners could never understand — or at least would never admit publicly — why they’ve been subjected to so much criticism over the past six and a half years. The reason is simple: Fans want their sports teams’ owners who are passionate and want to win as much as they do, and who give the impression that they know what they’re doing.

When owners are suing each other, it obviously sends a different message.

Now that they’re out of the courtroom, the remaining members of the Atlanta Spirit need to go about trying to repair some of the damage they’ve inflicted during their tenure. But if they don’t succeed right away, maybe it’s because there are more than a few bridges that need repairing.

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92 comments Add your comment

Herschel Talker

December 22nd, 2010
7:51 pm

Schultzie:

When do pitchers and catchers report?

HT

some sense

December 22nd, 2010
7:52 pm

Still a clown show. Belkin was right re. Joe Johnson.

David McDavid

December 22nd, 2010
7:58 pm

When can we start negotiating a sales price?

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 22nd, 2010
8:00 pm

Great now sell the teams or move them out of atlanta. The MAJORITY of the sports public in the Metro Area not care or want to support either of these sports muchless these teams.

D A Double U G

December 22nd, 2010
8:04 pm

POAD,

We FINALLY agree on something.

I for one am sad to see that things may have taken a turn for the better for the future of Atlanta NBA and Hockey. I figured the longer this would drag out, the more likely LAs Vegas would take our NBA team from us, and some unknown Canadian city could have taken the Thrashers so they could have had real fan-support for a change. Ho hum……

And POAD, just so you know, we are NOT friends because we agreed on something. THIS is what I think of your JV teams “mighty” Triple Option……. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KDrPUcUsFY

42-34

D A Double U G

December 22nd, 2010
8:06 pm

Herschel Talker….. Valentine’s Day, sir.

We'llTakeGoodNews

December 22nd, 2010
8:13 pm

To be a major league city – and not just a college football city – Atlanta needs both the NBA and NHL. The teams will be supported if we get a competitive product. This at least clears one major obstacle to make that happen. So, the complainers above – who only want college sports apparently – are free to keep warm tonight wrapped in their SEC/ACC blankets. Meanwhile, the Thrashers are a game out of 1st place and one of the most exciting teams in the NHL – with two straight games that were near sellouts.

Three Ring Circus

December 22nd, 2010
8:13 pm

Their dispute is only rivaled by the bickering on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”.

Cletus Dooley Earnhardt SR.

December 22nd, 2010
8:15 pm

WhO carez aboot theese forraign sportts suchs as hookey and basebetball. We thee city oof Geoorgia onlly cayre aboot ONE SPURT! Annd sinnce evveryone inn thiss townn is a whiite mayle repubblican, i cann safeely speakk for us ann say, UGA FOOOTBALL and noothing ellse. We havee a one trackk minedd down here, onnly havee lovve for FOOOTBALL!

-GO UGA!

Former Atlanta Flames Ticketholder

December 22nd, 2010
8:16 pm

I’d like to see an ownership change as well for the Thrashers, with them staying here, of course.

Someone like Arthur Blank would do.

Chief Wiggum

December 22nd, 2010
8:20 pm

I get the impression that Belkin wanted to run it as a business. I think that in general, that rarely works, most sports franchises are about the owner’s ego, and spending too much on talent has become a way of life for them. I went to a Thrashers game once, free tickets, and I know that if I actually had to have paid face value, I would have never done it. Not even half of face value. It’s vicious cycle, owners overpay for players, then overcharge the fans. When the fans get fed up, things will change, but then, I guess fans are about winning no matter the cost.

wxwax

December 22nd, 2010
8:21 pm

Buying out Belkin leaves them even shorter on money, one presumes.

So the fundamental problem plaguing the organization — it’s poor — remains.

Inspired leadership can overcome that. But as a pessimist, it seems to me that inspired leadership doesn’t usually come from a committee, it comes from an individual.

I’m glad the Spirit is local and is committed to keeping the teams here. But there’s a lot of work ahead of them.

Atlanta Fan

December 22nd, 2010
8:26 pm

DA Dbl U G…I guess you are pretty proud of UGA’s “great” season…and the memphis bowl? Good luck without AJ Green to throw to next year. And this is GOOD news. BUT only if they actually start paying attention to the teams. Hawks and Thrashers could use a REAL ownership group that cares. Though I guess that’s too much to ask for.

Oh and GO DIRTY BIRDS!! BEAT THAT AINT A$$!!

Tom Brady's Hair Cut

December 22nd, 2010
8:31 pm

I like all you toothless rednecks who say you don’t care but you are here posting.

All I'm Saying Is...

December 22nd, 2010
8:32 pm

Oh, heck yes this is GREAT NEWS! The anchor is gone as Beanhead Belkin is out and now we can get on with the real business at hand: a hard-driving playoff playing Thrasher bunch which finally has both a good coach and G.M. and a high-flying Hawks crew that will exceed expectations since their coach knows how to use the bench players.

LET’S GO HAWKS!
LET’S GO THRASHERS!

bob

December 22nd, 2010
8:35 pm

Too bad Belkin lost. A single owner with a vision. Let the mediocracy continue.

Brett

December 22nd, 2010
8:36 pm

It’s a Christmas miracle!

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 22nd, 2010
8:41 pm

Tom Brady you have never seen me post on a Thrashers or Hawks blog. This is Schultz blog and the subject was the Thrashers & Hawks. I post on many of Bradley’s and Schultz’s blogs. I used to go to Flames & Hawks games and I have been to Thrashers games, but I don’t care if these teams leave. I do not watch the NBA or NHL on TV either. Soccer on ice with fighting. I never played and it is not something I would spend money to go downtown to see. Loved Basketball and played it. Loved ACC Basketball, but in the last 15 or so years the game is not close to the game I played as a kid. I can’t stand most of the NBA players and their attitudes.

Timbo

December 22nd, 2010
8:41 pm

Belkin had it right all along.

D A Double U G

December 22nd, 2010
8:47 pm

Again, we agree POAD.

This must be a Christmas Miracle. The words coming from POAD are making sense.

And the rest of you, if being a UGA graduate makes me a toothless redneck, then i’ll be first in line to proudly buy dentures and shoot a deer. Man, you guys should try being one too. It’s a life that is quite dandy!!

GO DAWGS!!!!

kbb

December 22nd, 2010
8:49 pm

POAD, you dont like hockey because of the violence and dont like basketball because of the attitudes. But yet i BET your a fan of the NFL and where they try to kill each other and where they have the Pacman Jones, T.O.’s, Matt Jones, etc etc of the world who have some of the worst attitudes in sports. Just admit your a populist so we can move on

Tonyb

December 22nd, 2010
8:51 pm

Jeff, is this good news or bad news for the Thrashers? The team is rebuilding, and the fans are starting to come back. But, this is a group that has fawned over the Hawks, but has all but ignored the Thrashers. And now they must come up with 30 percent of the value of all three entities just to pay off Belkin. Will they sacrifice the Thrashers to keep the Hawks? And will Bettman let them do it

jcwhitingjr

December 22nd, 2010
8:57 pm

“soccer on ice”? You obviously don’t know what you are talking about.

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 22nd, 2010
9:06 pm

kbb I didn’t say I don’t like Hockey because of the fights. I used to love to see Tom Lesik and Eric Vale bust some Butt. I just don’t enjoy spending money on it. I don’t like going downtown at night during the week to support the team. I know there are many bad NFL players too. I just don’t care for the majority of the NBA Stars Attitudes. I can agree that we disagree. If you don’t mind spending your money on tickets and going to the DANGER ZONE at night during the week, then by all means enjoy the NHL & NBA in Atlanta.

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 22nd, 2010
9:08 pm

DA Double UG
It has to be because it is not about Tech & UGA sports, students, or education. HAHAHAHAHAHAAH

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 22nd, 2010
9:15 pm

Schultz
I am feeling bad. Bosie St isn’t looking great in this game. I was expecting a 20 point lead not a 4 point lead. I went until the last 15 minutes wanting to change to UTAH, but I didn’t. I hope it horks for me in the Sack Schultz game.

kbb

December 22nd, 2010
9:21 pm

So Centennial Park area where TOURIST walk around freely is a area that you as Atlantan (i presume) are too chicken to go to? OK dude. Man up, ive been to dozens of Thrashers/Hawks games and ive had no issues. Stop watching Monica Kaufman and leave the nest kid!

As far as the NBA attitudes thats an outdated argument besides Lebron James who is immature but has NEVER been a problem off the court here are the other top YOUNG stars:

Kevin Durant-great all around kid
Blake Griffin-stud, hard worker, seems to be a good guy
Rajon Rondo-intelligent clean cut, low key
Derrick Rose-quiet, stays out of trouble humble
Dwight Howard-all around good guy

Dude your stuck in the 90s when guys like Iverson, Marbury and Steve Francis dominated the league and turned off alot of fans. There are so many likable good natured guys in the league right now. But i know i wont change your mind and nor will you. I will continue to enjoy the Thrashers and Hawks AS WELL as the Braves and Falcons. I am a SPORTS FAN.

Matt Chernoff

December 22nd, 2010
9:21 pm

@ 5150 P.O.A.D.

“The Danger Zone?” Really?

Matt Chernoff

December 22nd, 2010
9:23 pm

@ kbb:

I couldn’t agree with you more, Sir.

Najeh Davenpoop

December 22nd, 2010
9:26 pm

College sports are boring. UGA, Ga Tech, who cares. Two JV teams within their own conferences, playing sports at a JV level. The pros are where it’s at.

Glad to see the DASG get this settled. I hope I never have to hear anything about them again, unless they decide to sell the Hawks to Arthur Blank.

BoLegs

December 22nd, 2010
9:28 pm

Man what a ugly group of men. Wish they would sell and get the He!! out of town.

Najeh Davenpoop

December 22nd, 2010
9:30 pm

Oh yeah, and the Georgia Dome is right next to Philips Arena. Nobody seems to have a problem filling that building up. So much for the so-called “danger zone”. Centennial Park is about as dangerous as a meadow full of tulips and bunnies.

BoLegs

December 22nd, 2010
9:31 pm

5150, Bosie St will win by at least 20 or more points. Bet on it.

BoLegs

December 22nd, 2010
9:34 pm

Boise— sorry about spelling.

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 22nd, 2010
9:36 pm

Downtown Atlanta after 10pm yes Danger Zone.
KBB I used to ride Sportbikes with the “Black Boys On Mopeds” in the late 80’s to mid 90’s. I’ve been to Mr V’s figure 8, BackStreets, 688, and Masqurade. I have never been afraid to be downtown. I now choose not to take the risks I used to take. No way in Hell I would take my family down to games during the week nights.

Georgia Hoo

December 22nd, 2010
9:52 pm

By all accounts, some of the owners have had difficulty in coming up with the cash required in the capital calls the past few years. So, how then are they coming up with the necessary cash to buy out Belkin? Even if they offset the cash price against money Belkin wasn’t putting in for his share of the calls, it’s still gotta be a pretty penny. And I wouldn’t think that Belkin offered financing terms.

gcs

December 22nd, 2010
9:53 pm

It’ll be good news when Atlanta Spirit puts up the “For Sale” sign.

.

JeJe

December 22nd, 2010
9:53 pm

Since this news has no bearing financially [apparently] on the franchises, who cares?

kracker

December 22nd, 2010
9:53 pm

Thanks for the news.

There are a lot of wierd ppl posting on your blog, Schultz. A lot seem to not be very sports connected, they just want to rant (which they do rather pathectically). That must be very depressing for a sports columnist.

Joe Thompson

December 22nd, 2010
9:56 pm

Now move these teams away… especially the Thrashers……

Come on “Thrashers”…. is that a name for a team??????

The mascot is named Thrash!!!!!

This team is a joke…..

Bluelander

December 22nd, 2010
10:00 pm

Right on Jeff…now it is time for the guys out front…namely Levenson and Gearon to take some accountability for the past and show some passion for the future of both these franchises.

Jessie Smith

December 22nd, 2010
10:00 pm

I wonder what hockey is… I guess there is only 400 people interested in that sport in Atlanta… and that they are at every games!!!!!!!! Sorry, I forgot about the 5000 free tickets!!!!!!!!!!

Bluelander

December 22nd, 2010
10:10 pm

Scratch the accountability part…according to Levenson “we are proud of what we have done”. They just don’t get it and frankly they never will. I pray that someone comes in and will either buy the teams or invest enough to get a controlling interest and get rid of these boobs. They are living in fantasyland….

CrazyDiamond

December 22nd, 2010
10:13 pm

We are no longer totally screwed! The owners are no longer fighting among themselves!
Money remains a problem, though. Corporate Sponsorships will still lag, ticket sales are soft, no national TV contract for the NHL, local TV revenue is poor… WANTED: Deep Pockets to join or take ove Atlanta Spirit. And a playoff caliber goalie.

Alan R.

December 22nd, 2010
10:30 pm

no national TV contract for the NHL

ESPN is supposedly back in the picture. VERSUS is carried here in Atlanta.

And a playoff caliber goalie.

Meet Ondrej Pavelec. ;)

D A Double U G

December 22nd, 2010
10:33 pm

Georgia Tech basketball just lost to Siena…….

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 22nd, 2010
10:37 pm

Da Double UG
Now we were doing so good.
How is AJ not coming back? I guess he doesn’t want to bust his butt trying to get that Housing Degree. Hell AJ owes the dawg fans a WHOLE season for what he did to the team this year.

Joe

December 22nd, 2010
10:38 pm

The lawsuit had nothing to do with the fans dislike of ASG- it is all about the stupid decisions they make daily- draft picks, coaches, gm’s, free agents, etc……. They are the poster child for how NOT to run a sports franchise.

kracker

December 22nd, 2010
10:43 pm

You tell ‘em, Alan R!

D A Double U G

December 22nd, 2010
10:44 pm

POAD,

As much as Techies are itching to talk smack about AJ leaving early (it would be the only thing you have going right in the UGA/Tech Rivalry), UGA fans have zero hopes or expectations on him coming back.

So when the announcement is official, after the bowl game, UGA fans will not be crushed or devistated like you want us to be. It’s not as if he told us all year he would be back and switched his mind at the last second.

AJ deserves to go Pro. He will be a darn good one too. And you thought “4th and OOPS!” Bay Bay Thomas was drafted high last year…… watch what happens this year with AJ!!!

BEST OF LUCK AJ!!! I will cheer you on nomatter what team you play on, except for the Saints.