So is there any truth to this USA Today story that a Florida and Connecticut-based group placed a $500 million bid for the Atlanta Thrashers, the Atlanta Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena?
As of late Friday afternoon, the answer is still not clear, but it will not likely matter to Thrashers fans. The Thrashers are still almost certainly moving to Winnipeg.
J. Michael Falgoust and Jake Kaplan reported from the NBA Finals in Dallas that a group of African-American investors lead by former LSU basketball player Bernard Woodside made a half-billion dollar bid for all of the Atlanta Spirit’s assets, including the Thrashers, Hawks and Philips Arena operating rights once the Spirit’s exclusivity period ended with San Diego Padres owner John Moores on May 20.
Woodson and Chappell reportedly created W/C Holdings to effectuate the sale. Bob Morrison, who claims to be the attorney working on the deal, alleges that W/C Holdings placed the money in escrow and the group is committed to the offer.
"The ownership group was attracted to the Atlanta market and believes it is one that has an upside and is interested in seeing what it can do to help grow the market," Morrison told USA Today in an elongated version of the story hosted on sister station WXIA’s website in Atlanta.
The Spirit elected to sell the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, Ltd. of Winnipeg instead 11 days later for $110 million. The NHL received a $60 million relocation fee from True North, $20 million of which was reportedly kept by the Spirit.
While the Woodside group knows that the Thrashers ship has likely sailed, they still claim to be interested in purchasing the Hawks from the Spirit and will reportedly adjust their offer downward once the Thrashers sale becomes official.
"We all know where the Thrashers deal is," Morrison told USA Today. "We'd still like to acquire the Hawks, the arena and the Spirit."
A phone call placed to Morrison, an e-mail left for Woodside and a message left for Chappell for further comment by Examiner.com were not responded to as of late Friday.
WSB TV reports that a source close to the Spirit claims that the reported bid is “another crazy rumor.” The source went on to add that “there was no truth to it” and that they were “surprised (that) USA Today printed it.”
However, the Spirit has not gone on the record to respond as of close of business Friday.
Messages left for Thrashers co-owners Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson through both the Hawks and Thrashers public relations staffs have not been met with an official answer. USA Today reported that Gearon was in Asia on Thursday.
Woodside reportedly owns Global Wellington Financial Corp. Chappell, runs Connecticut-based Oriana Capital Partners, LLC. W/C Holdings also reportedly has other partners both nationally and internationally that are interested in purchasing a basketball team. The group reportedly has also expressed interest in buying the Memphis Grizzlies.
Woodside, who also may claim to be an ordained minister, told USA Today that ownership of at least the Hawks was something that was important to the African-American community.