Sale of Hawks, Thrashers finally completed

ATLANTA - The sale of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and NHL's Atlanta Thrashers from Time Warner Inc. to Atlanta Spirit LLC was completed Wednesday, ending a saga that began in the fall of 2002. The close of the sale followed approval of Turner Broadcasting, the board of directors of parent company Time Warner and the NBA and NHL's board of governors. As part of the announcement, Atlanta Spirit, comprised of nine partners, named long-time sports executive Bernie Mullin the group's president and chief executive officer. Mullin will head the business operations of both teams and Philips Arena. The sale, approved in September, took nearly seven months to finalize. Time Warner will retain a 15 percent interest in the teams and Philips Arena. "We're excited to put in place today a very talented management team that will serve as a wonderful complement to the existing strong staff at both teams and the arena," Atlanta Spirit partner Michael Gearon Jr. said. A native of England, Mullin has 25 years of experience in sports marketing and business operations with the NBA and major league baseball's Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates. Attendance has dwindled in recent years for the Hawks, who have one of the NBA's worst records and will miss the playoffs for the firfth straight season. "This city has shown that it can and will support winning franchises," Mullin said. "(General manager) Billy Knight and the Hawks have done a great job of clearing cap room and will aggressively pursue free agents to make a championship-caliber team." Former Hawks superstar Dominique Wilkins was named vice president-basketball and will report to Mullin. "I'm very excited," said Wilkins, the Hawks' all-time leading scorer. "It's a dream come true to come to Atlanta in a much more significant role, a role of respect, and hopefully put the franchise back in a light that it should be." The Thrashers never had made the Stanley Cup playoffs in their five-year history. "(General manager) Don Waddell has assembled a core Thrashers product that is the envy of the NHL and we have every intention of making this team a Stanley Cup contender," Mullin added. The Thrashers do boast Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley, two of the best young players in the league.

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