Atlanta Spirit owns and operates the Atlanta Hawks basketball team. The Hawks formed in 1946, joined the National Basketball Association in 1949, and moved to Atlanta from St. Louis in 1968. Atlanta Spirit also operates Philips Arena, which serves as the home arena for the Hawks and also plays host to concerts and other events. The sports investment partnership sold its struggling National Hockey League franchise, the Atlanta Thrashers, to True North Sports and Entertainment in 2011. Atlanta Spirit founders include entrepreneurs Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon Jr.
Despite considerable investment over the years, Atlanta Spirit was unable to truly establish the Thrashers in the Atlanta market, in large part due to a lack of success on the ice. The True North Sports and Entertainment group plans to move the team to Winnipeg, Canada for the 2011-12 NHL season.
Although the Hawks have sealed long-term deals with star players Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, Atlanta Spirit's general strategy for the team has been to spend less on big name free agents and focus more on developing a nucleus of talented young players. The approached has worked to some extent as the Hawks have become regular participants, if not champions, again in the NBA playoffs.
Atlanta Spirit acquired the sports franchises in 2004 for $250 million from Turner Sports, a unit of Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting.