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.
Last 3 posts, now in high-def