Atlanta Hawks

Meet the Hawks’ new owners

Former President Carter, wife Rosalynn smooch on ‘Kiss Cam’ at Atlanta Hawks game

Former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn shared a kiss at an Atlanta Hawks game on Valentine’s Day as the NBA team played the Knicks, who won. It was also Love Wins Pride Night for the LGBT community.
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Former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn shared a kiss at an Atlanta Hawks game on Valentine’s Day as the NBA team played the Knicks, who won. It was also Love Wins Pride Night for the LGBT community.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Hawks officially got new owners this past week. Here are introductions to six key members of the ownership group.

Tony Ressler

Ressler, the Hawks’ new principal owner, made his fortune in the finance industry, co-founding Los Angeles-based investment firm Ares Management, which he still heads. Forbes magazine ranks him the 418th-richest person in the United States with a net worth of $1.51 billion.

He owns an approximately 50-percent stake in the Hawks, will serve as chairman of the board and will have the final say on ownership decisions.

Ressler, 55, long sought to buy a professional sports franchise, previously making unsuccessful bids for two Los Angeles teams, baseball’s Dodgers and basketball’s Clippers. He also pursued possible purchases of the Golden State Warriors and other NBA teams in recent years. He owns a small stake in baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, whose principal owner is Mark Attanasio, a friend of Ressler’s since high school.

Ressler is a long-time Lakers season-ticket holder, and he plays in pick-up basketball games at his brother’s house every Sunday that he is in Los Angeles. He will continue to live in L.A., but already has bought an Atlanta residence for visits here.

Ressler, who grew up in Long Island, N.Y., and has degrees from Georgetown and Columbia, began his career in the 1980s at investment house Drexel Burnham Lambert. The firm famously filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990, the year after the former head of its junk bond division, Michael Milken, was indicted for securities violations.

In 1990, Ressler co-founded investment firm Apollo Management with his brother-in-law Leon Black, now also a billionaire. Ressler branched off to start Ares in 1997. Ares, which has about $87 billion in investor assets under management, lends money to companies and sometimes buys them. The publicly traded firm has about 800 employees worldwide, including about 30 in an Atlanta office, Ressler said.

Ares’ private-equity arm has acquired all or large portions of dozens of businesses over the years. Its current holdings include luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, discounter 99 Cents Only Stores and three Atlanta-based businesses: Floor & Decor Outlets of America, Serta Simmons Bedding and staffing services company Insight Global.

Ressler’s wife of 26 years is actress Jami Gertz, whose career has included roles in movies “Sixteen Candles” (1984), “The Lost Boys” (1987) and “Twister” (1996) and, in recent years, TV shows “Entourage” (HBO) and “The Neighbors” (ABC).

Grant Hill

Hill, 42, was a star player at Duke and in the NBA. Since retiring as a player at the end of the 2012-13 season, he has been involved in media and business interests. He has long desired to own a piece of an NBA franchise.

Hill will be the vice chairman of the Hawks’ board of directors.

He starred on Duke teams that won two NCAA championships, was the third overall pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 1994 NBA draft and was selected to the NBA All-Star team seven times despite being plagued by injuries later in his career. In addition to the Pistons, he played for the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Clippers. He averaged 16.7 points per game for his career, including 20-plus points per game for five consecutive seasons with Detroit.

Hill, the son of former NFL running back Calvin Hill, has been a basketball analyst for Turner Sports and CBS Sports. He also is a managing principal and co-founder of Penta Mezzanine Fund, an Orlando, Fla.-based private equity firm, and head of Hill Ventures, a commercial real estate investment company. He and his wife, Tamia, a seven-time Grammy-nominated singer, live in Orlando, but are considering moving to Atlanta.

Sara Blakely

Blakely, 44, is the founder of Atlanta-based shapewear company Spanx. She is the 513th-richest person in the United States with a net worth of $1.02 billion, according to Forbes.

Blakely developed Spanx’s first product, footless pantyhose, in her Atlanta apartment. Since launching in 2000, the brand has grown to more than 200 products, ranging from slimming apparel and swimsuits to bras, activewear and men’s undershirts.

Blakely, who had $5,000 in her savings account when she started Spanx, was named the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire by Forbes in 2012.

She grew up in Clearwater, Fla., and graduated from Florida State.

Jesse Itzler

Itzler, 46, who is Blakely’s husband, is a rapper-turned-entrepreneur. In 2001, he co-founded Marquis Jet, which built its business around selling flight time on private jets in 25-hour increments. The company was sold in 2010 to a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Soon after graduating from American University in 1990, Itzler signed a record deal under the name Jesse Jaymes, launching a short-lived career as a rapper. A native of Roslyn, N.Y., Itzler later wrote and performed the New York Knicks’ 1994 rally anthem “Go, New York, Go.” He also was responsible for the popular NBA song “I Love This Game.”

Itzler and Blakely were married in 2008. After moving to Atlanta, he became a Hawks season-ticket holder and a passionate fan of the team. He served as a consultant to the franchise for a year under the former ownership group.

Steven Price

Price, 53, originally bought a stake in the Hawks from the previous ownership group early last year and opted to roll over his investment into the new group.

He is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Townsquare Media, which owns and operates 310 radio stations in small to mid-sized markets around the country. He previously worked at two private equity firms, worked at the Pentagon as deputy assistant Secretary of Defense, co-founded a software company, practiced law and worked as an investment banker.

A graduate of Brown University and Columbia University School of Law, he lives in New York.

Rick Schnall

Schnall, 45, is a partner with private equity firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice, where he has been responsible for the acquisitions and sales of numerous companies.

Before joining CD&R 19 years ago, Schnall worked in the investment banking divisions of Smith Barney and Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette. At CD&R, he has handled complex transactions involving Sally Beauty, David’s Bridal, US Foods, AssuraMed and Envision Healthcare, among others.

Schnall is an avid basketball fan who still plays the game three days a week. He is close to a number of college coaches. He and Itzler have been friends for 20 years, having met, Schnall recalls, playing basketball.

Schnall, who lives in New York, has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Business School. ------ (c)2015 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) Visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) at www.ajc.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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