Bruce Levenson Rumors
The Atlanta Hawks Basketball and Entertainment LLC, the former ownership group of the NBA franchise, has filed a lawsuit against New Hampshire Insurance Company for breach of contract involving the settlement of claims made by former general manager Danny Ferry. The former Hawks ownership group (AHBE) included managing partners Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon Jr. The lawsuit does not involve the current Hawks ownership group led by principle owner Tony Ressler.
Ferry and Hawks ownership reached an undisclosed buyout agreement on June 22, 2015 ending the relationship that began with a six-year, $18 million contract in 2012. The approval of the sale of franchise to the Ressler-led group came two days later. According to a spokesperson for current Hawks ownership: “We are aware of the complaint. The principal parties involved no longer have ties to the Atlanta Hawks organization and we will have no further comment on this matter.”
Gearon, who never hid his enmity for Ferry because of the indifference the GM showed him and his beloved franchise’s history, also noted he had an audio recording of the call. Levenson took it as a threat. He was floored — and in a tricky spot. Just a month before, Levenson had taken to CNN to proclaim he couldn’t be partners with Donald Sterling after audio of a racist comment made by the soon-to-be-removed owner of the Los Angeles Clippers leaked. Levenson told an Atlanta radio station “the league has to have a zero-tolerance policy against racism and discrimination in any form.”
In an attempt to give a new partner the lay of the land, Levenson, in a 2014 email obtained by ESPN, wrote of Gearon, “You could have an hour conversation and come away thinking he is a great guy — analytical, interested in your views on everything from the state of the economy to raising your kids, wise in his advice, a good listener and passionate about the Hawks. The next day you could have another conversation and come away thinking he is mean-spirited, close-minded and either deliberately devious and overly meddling or missing some connector in his brain.”
“I get the sense Danny either doesn’t respect or value my opinion, which should be given to you and then you communicate my words to Danny,” Gearon wrote to Levenson in a 2012 email. “That seems very bureaucratic to me. I have built 3 separate billion-dollar business [sic] in my career in 4 countries. I have some of the savviest investors in the world as well as some of the wealthiest individuals in the world ask me for my thoughts on different subjects yet [for] a team I have been involved with either directly or indirectly for approximately 35 years [the] new GM doesn’t feel a need to have a direct communication with me.”
Though Levenson was also removed, awaiting the sale of the team, he still held a majority interest in the Hawks. Levenson was despondent over the way things had broken against Ferry, and the two spoke frequently about staging Ferry’s second act in Atlanta. By many accounts, Levenson came close to pulling the trigger. However, with the team on the market, he wanted to play it safe. Interest had not exactly been robust. Fans were coming out, buying tickets, concessions and merchandise — and the season-ticket base was expanding. The miscarriage of justice wrought on Ferry was devastating to Levenson, but there were simply too many items on the other side of the ledger working against him.