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The ownership group, called the Atlanta Spirit, also had to look outside of Atlanta to find a buyer for the Hawks. This time, there was no threat of moving the team.
The group bought the Hawks, Thrashers and operating rights to Philips Arena, where the teams play, in 2004. There was almost immediate dissension among the owners.
The ownership split began in 2005 over Belkin's objection to the Hawks' trade of Boris Diaw, two first-round draft picks and a $4.9 million trade exception to the Phoenix Suns for guard Joe Johnson.
The dispute led to a long legal battle that ended when Levenson and Gearon announced on Dec. 22, 2010, they had purchased Belkin's share.
Gearon, the son of former Hawks executive Michael Gearon Sr., grew up with the team and has said he would like to retain a minority share if the team was sold. The elder Gearon also is part of the ownership team.
The Hawks have made the playoffs the past four seasons, including three straight second-round appearances.
While the owners were criticized for failing to keep the Thrashers' stars, including Ilya Kovalchuk, in Atlanta, the group was aggressive in re-signing Hawks stars Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford.
"The perception is we don't spend money," Gearon Jr. said recently about the Hawks. "Yet you look at our roster and the core assets, we've kept all of them."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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