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Atlanta Spirit Group Ownership Lawsuit Settled: Will It Have Ramifications For The Hawks And Thrashers?

The ownership lawsuit that has hounded the Atlanta Spirit ownership group for years is finally over. The group settled today, releasing this statement:

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.

A very big name is missing from all of this - Steve Belkin. You might remember that name from the continuing legal struggles between the Spirit Group and Belkin himself. The founder of Trans National Group is a minority shareholder in the ownership group and was not happy when, in 2005, the ownership ok-ed a trade of Boris Diaw and two first round picks to the Phoenix Suns for Joe Johnson. Belkin voted no, and the legal battles that followed seemed to last forever. Belkin claimed he was being forced out, and as a 30% owner in both teams wanted to be bought out as part of his resignation. He claimed that he was owed $142.8 million dollars, plus interest - and that the value of the two teams were being intentionally driven downward so that he would not have to be paid as much in compensation.

The absolute highlight of the problem was when Bruce Levinson, the NHL guy in the Spirit, broke this out in reference to Belkin:

In a memo cited in court Tuesday by Belkin’s attorney, Atlanta Spirit LLC co-owner Bruce Levenson mentions "Belkin’s misdeeds" as a business partner and says his wrongdoings should have a "not-so-subliminal affect against the evil Belkin."

Wow. This was obviously carried out completely in a civil manner between professionals.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.