Remembering the life of former Hawks general manager, part-owner Michael Gearon Sr.


“I appreciate him so much, and it’s just hard for me to believe he’s gone.”

Gearon stepped down as general manager of the Hawks after two years in 1979 and remained president of the team until 1986. He was instrumental in the September 1982 acquisition of draft-draft Wilkins from the Utah Jazz. the former University of Georgia star earlier that year.

“Mike is one of the main reasons I’m in Atlanta, because it was him and Hank Aaron who convinced Ted Turner to make a trade to bring me here,” Wilkins said.

To exploreRead and sign Michael Gearon Sr.’s online guestbook.
Legend

Michael Gearon Sr. poses for a portrait after a press conference announcing the closing of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers sale on March 31, 2004.

Credit: Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Hawks

Michael Gearon Sr. poses for a portrait after a press conference announcing the closing of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers sale on March 31, 2004.
Legend

Michael Gearon Sr. poses for a portrait after a press conference announcing the closing of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers sale on March 31, 2004.

Credit: Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Hawks

Credit: Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Hawks

John Michael Gearon, born May 6, 1934 in Englewood, New Jersey, moved to Atlanta at the age of 20 and first made his mark in commercial real estate here in the 1960s, with development plans which included the Coastal States Building, Executive Park and the early stages of the Perimeter Center. He became known by some in the industry as the “Father of the Suburban Office Park”.

He sold the Gearon & Company holdings in 1971 and retired to spend more time with his three children – daughter Tierney and sons Michael Jr. and Tim. Yet Gearon was honored at an event 25 years later as one of the 20 “Legends” of commercial real estate in the Atlanta metro area.

He previously discussed his decision to retire at such a young age in an interview with AJC, saying, “Freedom is important to me. I had a fantasy of romantic countries and remote places. … I have a desperate need to experience a lot. Adventure. Good music. Good art.

And basketball.

“He loved basketball,” Wilkins said. “Oh, man, he was passionate about basketball. … Until the day he passed away, he loved this town, he loved the Hawks, and he was a tremendous supporter of this whole organization and the town.

“He was always looking to help others. He has helped me in so many ways.

Gearon began attending Hawks games when the team moved from St. Louis to Atlanta in 1968. Shortly after Turner bought the Hawks in January 1977, he asked his friend Gearon to temporarily run the Hawks. organization.

“I met Ted on my way to basketball games, to recall club meetings,” Gearon told AJC in 2004. “We became very close. I was never an employee, and I think in that sense that I always had my hands clean when giving advice. We had a lot of fun. “

“Our father’s quick wit never let me forget how simple things were when he was in charge of the Hawks,” Michael Gearon Jr. wrote in a long remembrance letter about his father. which he shared with the AJC on Friday. “In 1977… the team photo consisted of a coach, assistant coach, coach, 12 players, dad and Ted (Turner). The times have changed.”

As general manager of the Hawks, Gearon traded for Tom McMillen and Terry Furlow and signed Dan Roundfield as a free agent. The Hawks made the playoffs in Gearon’s two seasons as general manager.

He was team president in the 1980s when the Hawks fired Hubie Brown as a coach and when they first hired Kevin Loughery, then Mike Fratello as a coach.

Gearon was followed, first as general manager of the Hawks and later as team president, by Stan Kasten. When Kasten became president, Gearon became chairman of the Hawks board, an advisory and ceremonial position he held until 2004, when his long association with the team entered a new chapter.

He was part of a nine-member group from Atlanta, Boston and Washington that purchased the Hawks, the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team and the rights to operate Philips Arena from Time Warner in March. 2004. He had a stake of just over 2%, and his son Michael Jr., who made his fortune at a young age in the telecommunications industry, had a larger stake and a more practical role.

The remote ownership group, Atlanta Spirit LLC, quickly became mired in discord and litigation. He sold the Thrashers to an organization that moved the NHL franchise to Winnipeg in 2011 and sold the Hawks and arena rights to a group led by Tony Ressler in 2015.

At that time, Gearon Sr. had been associated with the Hawks – as general manager, president, chairman of the board, or co-owner – for almost 40 years.

He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren when he died.

“Our father spent his last days on earth in his house without pain, sleeping peacefully,” wrote Michael Gearon Jr. “As tears flowed from everyone’s eyes, I couldn’t help but think of the gift that God gave us. Dad spent the majority of his 87 years worrying and caring about everyone and was the most selfless, generous, and caring person I know.

“And that was true until the last week of his life, when all of us, the people he loved, cared about and cared for, were able to be there for him.”

A private service was held on November 27 at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.