ATLANTA?Owners of the NBA Atlanta Hawks are in exclusive talks to sell the team and its arena while also trying to peddle the NHL Atlanta Thrashers, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday.
Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said the Atlanta Spirit group has an exclusive negotiating period to sell the Hawks and their home arena to John Moores, an internet magnate and outgoing owner of baseball's San Diego Padres.
The Spirit is also reported to be in talks to sell the Thrashers to a Canadian group that would move the NHL club to Winnipeg, which lost its NHL team in a move from the central Canadian prairie to Arizona 15 years ago.
The internet report said a deal is not imminent and not certain to be completed but the exclusivity period, of an unknown duration, means the Spirit group will not sell to any other buyer as it talks with Moores' group.
Spirit group officials have said that no group has come to them with a pitch to buy both teams.
The Hawks cannot be moved until arena construction bonds are paid off in 2028 under a deal with Atlanta city officials, but there is no such stipulation regarding the NHL Thrashers.
Moores bought Major League Baseball's Padres in 1994 and sold them in 2009 in a complex deal that allows former Arizona Diamondbacks baseball owner Jeff Moorad to purchase the team in installments over five years.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Moorad owns 49 percent of the Padres, a controlling interest and owes Moores about $145 million by 2014.
The Hawks have reached the second round of the NBA playoffs in each of the past three seasons and ranked seventh in league payroll this season with about $71 million in player salaries.