Friday , Mar , 12 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Hawks/Thrashers ownership transfer almost complete

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) – The NBA Board of Governors approved the $250
million sale of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers on Friday, but before an
Atlanta investment group can take control of the two professional franchises,
the NHL must okay the deal.

AOL Time Warner agreed in September to sell its NBA and NHL franchises, as
well as Philips Arena, to Atlanta Spirit LLC, an investment partnership led by
Boston businessman Steve Belkin that two years ago tried unsuccessfully to buy
Charlotte’s NBA expansion franchise.

“We are thrilled to be approved as owners by the NBA,” said Atlanta
businessman J. Michael Gearon, Jr., a partner in Atlanta Spirit LLC. “As a
Hawks fan for over 30 years, this is a childhood dream come true.”

The group must now await a vote by the NHL Board of Governors.

“We are also pleased that we can now focus our full attention on obtaining the
approvals from the NHL, which we are optimistic will occur soon,” Gearon said.

AOL Time Warner is the parent company of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.,
which will maintain a 15-percent passive equity stake in the Atlanta Spirit
venture that will own the teams.

The company had been trying to sell the franchises since October 2002 in an
attempt to pay down more than $25 billion in debt.