Rejoice! New Hawks’ owner means end of Atlanta Spirit

This picture tells us nothing about Alex Meruelo.

We know little about Alex Meruelo. But ...

He is the right guy if for no other reason than he is a new guy.

“I will be in complete control of the team,” Alex Meruelo said.

And really, does anything else matter right now?

Because if Alex Meruelo is in charge, it means Bruce Levenson isn’t in charge. It means Michael Gearon Jr. isn’t in charge. It means Ed Peskowitz, Rutherford Seydel, the ghost of Steve Belkin, Topo Gigio and anybody else who ever was among the blur of Atlanta Spirit partners isn’t in charge.

They don’t call the shots any more.

Say goodbye to exploding clown shoes.

So ends the rule of the Atlanta Spirit. It’s too late to save the NHL franchise that the former ownership

... He has to be better than what we know about Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon Jr. and Bruce Levenson.

... he has to be better than Peskowitz, Gearon and Levenson.

group destroyed, lied about and ultimately sold off to Winnipeg. It’s too late to save us from the absurdity of owner-vs-owner lawsuits and daily dysfunction we witnessed for most of roughly seven years — why does it seem like 27? — in the front office. But we’ll take it today because it’s better than waiting until tomorrow.

If the Atlanta Spirit wasn’t the worst ownership in the history of professional sports, it at least is in the argument. No sports town wants to be in that argument.

I don’t know a thing about Alex Meruelo, other than what I Google and read. Pizza restaurants. Construction. A casino. A television station. Dandy.

The guy could have made his fortune selling second-hand nuclear reactors and I’d be cool with it. Alex Meruelo suddenly emerging the top of Atlanta Hawks’ food chain is like popping a few extra strength Tylenol, knowing the headache is bound to get better.

I know. He’s not from here. He doesn’t live here. He never has owned a sports team before. He comes with no guarantees.

Sorry, there is no such thing as guaranteed perfect owners, any more than there are guaranteed perfect general managers, coaches and point guards.

For all we know, Meruelo could be another Levenson (get down on your knees and pray no). Or he could be another Arthur Blank (get down on your knees and pray yes).

But wouldn’t you rather take the unknown vs. the known?

Meruelo, who will be introduced at a 2 p.m. news conference Monday at Philips Arena, says he will own more than 50 percent of the Hawks and Philips Arena operating rights. That’s all we need to know right now. Logic says Levenson, Gearon and/or Peskowitz will remain as minority partners because the rest of the money has to come from somewhere. But when one man owns controlling interest, it means one votes and one man decides.

Know this: When all of the Hawks’ owners get together in a room, only one of them will have had nothing to do with the Joe Johnson contract. It’s the one now in charge.

The NBA is in a lockout. I kind of like that. It gives Meruelo a chance to assess the Hawks, assess Rick Sund, assess Larry Drew, assess the franchise as both a business and a potential competitor for an NBA championship. There should be no rushed decisions here.

Meruelo said: “I want to bring a championship to the city of Atlanta.”

Yes, this is standard speak from the new owner talking points manual. Everybody involved with the Spirit said they wanted to win championships, too. It just doesn’t necessarily mean they were equipped to.

Maybe the new guy will know what he’s doing. He can’t possibly know less.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

238 comments Add your comment

max $$$

August 7th, 2011
7:08 pm

max joe johnson is not happy about this deal—he was hoping for more money from the current owners to come back.

TheDorkBaller

August 7th, 2011
7:13 pm

Too little too late for us Thrashers fans.

The Grinch

August 7th, 2011
7:15 pm

What wonderful, wonderful news. This guy could have made his living clubbing baby seals and selling their fur for all I care…he’s NOT THE SPIRIT, MAY THEY ALL ROAST IN THE DEEP CINDERS OF HELL.

CONservative Johnson

August 7th, 2011
7:20 pm

Señor Herman Cain… your new Hawks owner!

Bye Bye ASG

August 7th, 2011
7:22 pm

Im excited about the Hawks since the ASG is gone. Now hopefully Alex will spend money to get better players and a new coaching staff. I woudn’t mind him cleaning house. It’ time for a change.

Reid Adair

August 7th, 2011
7:22 pm

If only there was some way for Alex Meruelo to get the Hawks out of that ridiculous max contract with Joe Johnson.

It doesn’t matter what he does, though. Like you said, Jeff, the key point is that Bruce Levenson, Michael Gearon Jr., and company are not making any more decisions.

dawg4u

August 7th, 2011
7:25 pm

Good article Jeff! I completely agree. Bet you wish this story could have waited until Monday or Tuesday what with the PGA in Atlanta this week. I guess there is never a day off for you guys at AJC but you really do a great job of reporting and I know it is tough, hard work and takes a lot of time. Thanks!

not one penny

August 7th, 2011
7:27 pm

I still won’t spend a penny on the Hawks as long as any ASG owners are involved.

LAC

August 7th, 2011
7:35 pm

I simply HOPE this guy MOVES the team to a Better market, SEATTLE, nba does not belong here any longer !

CrazyDiamond

August 7th, 2011
7:36 pm

We are no longer so screwed.

steven A.

August 7th, 2011
7:36 pm

Hopefully he will be smart enough not to resign marvelous Marvin Williams. Maybe he will move
broadway Joe Johnson as well. Mr. Sund, PLEASE give someone else a chance. Even Stevie Wonder
could see that marvelous Marvin did not deserve starters money.

Lou Hudson could flat out shoot

August 7th, 2011
7:37 pm

No more trust fund babies running the show? Wow. A self made millionaire as owner. Wonder if he likes baseball?

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 7th, 2011
7:39 pm

“Can’t know less”, at least we’ll know who is on point. That’s a win, regardless,

Hear that Liberty Media?

JRY

August 7th, 2011
7:40 pm

I’m with “not one penny”… if any former ASG investor is involved, I’m out.

Yum Yums

August 7th, 2011
7:42 pm

Great news for the Hawks. Still won’t go due to the fact I just don’t care about any type of thug ball played. Would have rather saved the Thrashers and shipped off the Hawks.

Harry Hawk

August 7th, 2011
7:49 pm

I really hope Alex Meruelo is as talented and cool as this dude and his band.

Ricardo

August 7th, 2011
7:50 pm

“Meuruelo, who will be introduced at a 2 p.m. news conference Monday”

Can’t we at LEAST spell his name right?

Too bad for Thrasher fans…don’t know what the new CBA will bring, but I’m not sure much can be done about “fixing” the Hawks unless we can shed some salaries…

Booger

August 7th, 2011
7:50 pm

This is good news for the Hawks. For Atlanta sports fans.

No point bringing up Thrashers – they’re gone. Move on.

Quit being babies about ASG still having minority stake in Hawks. You got a new owner. Get over yourselves.

Native to the ATL

August 7th, 2011
7:53 pm

Maybe they can build a new arena on Buford highway, then change the name of the team to Los Hawkes……:-)

Vain Jangling

August 7th, 2011
7:54 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an owner like Mark Cuban? We can only hope. And yeah, Schultz, Topo Gigio is gone, but you didn’t say a thing about Jose Jimenez.

bigcalidawg

August 7th, 2011
8:00 pm

I frickin hope the team stays in ATL. I hear the same types of things were said when the Sonics were sold.

I just hope bonehead moves like signing JJ to max don’t happen again. We have needed a big for years.

MightyQuinn

August 7th, 2011
8:06 pm

Color me cautiously optimistic…

Fred

August 7th, 2011
8:11 pm

Good news that the Hawks are sold, Bad news that they will still be in Atlanta.

DB

August 7th, 2011
8:11 pm

As lost as there is still stink from the ASG involved, I’ll have zero interest.

Let NONE in

August 7th, 2011
8:20 pm

Good-bye ASG – you bunch of Liars.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 7th, 2011
8:26 pm

The NBA shedding the ATL is about as real as the ATL shedding Peachtree Street(s).

Josh Smith

August 7th, 2011
8:30 pm

Hey, Hawks fans. I’m just as excited as you about Mr. Meruelo running the Hawks now. We’re looking forward to bringing a few championships to Atlanta. Oh, and thanks for all the advice about me not shooting so many 45-footers. I’m feeling alot better about next season, whenever that is. ‘Preciate it.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 7th, 2011
8:30 pm

The good news? The ASG has become the low-water benchmark for Pro-Team Ownership.

Including roller derby.

San Diego

August 7th, 2011
8:41 pm

Hopefully, the hawks get moved to San Diego—better climate, beaches, more fans and tons of hot chicks wearing very little clothing all day!!!

dawg day afternoon

August 7th, 2011
8:43 pm

“hot chicks wearing very little clothing all day”

You really should come see Atlanta sometime…

Terrell

August 7th, 2011
8:44 pm

Yum Yums

Another racist comment about the NBA? Why am I’m not surprised.

darb

August 7th, 2011
8:48 pm

Atlanta Spirit, rest in hell. You set back pro basketball in Atlanta by at least 20 years, and you “only” owned the Hawks for 7 years.

Puck Like A Porn Star

August 7th, 2011
8:56 pm

They set back pro basketball and straight up KILLED pro hockey. Good riddance.

A single majority owner is enough for me to end my boycott of Philips…for now.

Jeff Schultz

August 7th, 2011
8:57 pm

LAC — Atlanta’s a great NBA town. Check the NBA TV ratings.

Jeff Schultz

August 7th, 2011
8:57 pm

Dawg4u — Thanks. The stories come when they come. None of us got into this thinking it was a 9-5, Monday-Friday job.

Jeff Schultz

August 7th, 2011
9:01 pm

Ricardo — Fixed. (Typo, not Hawks) … And nobody’s taking Joe’s contract in trade.

Jeff Schultz

August 7th, 2011
9:01 pm

Bigcalidawg — Hawks are tied to Arena. They can’t leave.

Jeff Schultz

August 7th, 2011
9:02 pm

Vain Jangling — And don’t forget Senor Wences!

Paddy

August 7th, 2011
9:06 pm

Levenson should be banned from owning any sports franchise except maybe an WNBA team. He could not hurt that product!

Grandmaster JeJe

August 7th, 2011
9:11 pm

FIRE SUND

FIRE LD

As bad as BASG was, Sund is still here. He is the worst GM in the NBA and challenges BK for worst ever. His hubris is obvious

heartofdarkness

August 7th, 2011
9:11 pm

Who is the basketball equivalent of baseball’s Bill James? Should get the first phone call.

Grandmaster JeJe

August 7th, 2011
9:12 pm

FIRE Sund

Work isn’t done. sUND must go

ryan

August 7th, 2011
9:16 pm

The Hawks can’t move get it through your head also there not moving to San Diego that other owner had his chance enough with Hawks moving its not going to happen .

JSS

August 7th, 2011
9:26 pm

The names: Donald Sterling, Rankin Smith, Sr., and Calvin Griffith will forever keep those losers who composed the DASG from being the worst of all times…

Jeff Schultz, why do you keep cursing Topo Gigio?

shootoutloss

August 7th, 2011
9:36 pm

Rot in hell A$G

extremus

August 7th, 2011
9:36 pm

Now if Liberty Media will just sell the Braves off to a caring (and willing-to-spend) human owner, Atlanta pro team sports will be really flying high.

P. Bull Terrier

August 7th, 2011
9:37 pm

A new owner is a good thing, but that won’t help the Hawks for several years. The convoluted NBA salary cap rules and poor management by the ASG have put the Hawks in a position where there’s not much anyone can do to improve the team quickly. This is still, first and foremost, Joe’s team.

Grandmaster JeJe

August 7th, 2011
9:49 pm

SUND MUST go.

He was just as bad as ASG.

ASG might’ve been better than Sund, because they did spend some money (#7 payroll I think)?

Well they both sucked

FIRE SUND
FIRE ASG. THEY SHOULD NOT BE MINORITY OWNERS

bweb blapho

August 7th, 2011
9:58 pm

@Grandmaster JeJe, Billy Knight was NOT the worst GM. BK did not give that contract to JJ. And, Sund is NOT the worst GM. Perhaps you don’t remember the Kontrak: Pete Babcock

C

August 7th, 2011
10:03 pm

Too late for the Thrashers. Sad.