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Groups emerge as leading candidates to purchase Atlanta Hawks, per report

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The sale of the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena continues to progress with a pair of groups emerging as favorites according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The sale of the Atlanta Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena is in its seventh month but an end could be on the horizon as two groups are emerging as front-runners according to a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Per the report, final bids are due on April 10 although that date could be pushed back to allow for additional bids. For now, two groups appear to be distancing themselves from the others. One led by Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan and the other led by Lionsgate Entertainment's Mark Rachesky.

From the AJC's report:

One leading group is led by Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan, who is joined by Indonesian billionaires Erick Thohir and Handy Poernomo and former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien. Braves great Hank Aaron also has been associated with the group.

The other leading group is led by Lionsgate Entertainment's Mark Rachesky, who is joined by New York investment banker Steve Starker. Jesse Itzler, who has done consulting work for the Hawks and attends many games, is also associated with the group. He is married to Spanx founder Sara Blakely.

The report also states that the process may drag out until June before it is completed. It was originally thought that the process would be completed sometime in April.

Another interesting part of the report states that at least one ownership group has concerns over Philips Arena in particularly the team's practice court and weight room which are termed as being subpar when compared to others around the league.

When new ownership is finally in place their first question to Steve Koonin and Mike Budenholzer should be "how can we help you" rather than rewriting the way business is done. This season has proven that the Hawks have a stable organization in place but other improvements are needed to strengthen the foundation. The franchise needs an owner that is willing to invest in a new practice facility and new weight room facilities that no doubt play a part in the attraction of free agents.

That is the next step if this franchise is to take another step forward.

They will also face internal decisions. One of the first things on the list should be negotiating a long-term extension for Budenholzer who has excelled during his first two seasons as the team's head coach. They will also have to determine the fate of exiled general manager Danny Ferry whose return feels more and more like a longshot at this point.