Thursday morning, the Atlanta Hawks announced that it has agreed to refinance the construction loan for the Emory Sports Medicine Complex with a syndicate of Black-owned banks. The $35 million loan marks the first time a professional sports franchise has had a significant loan underwritten exclusively by Black banks.
According to a press release, the National Black Bank Foundation formed a syndication team to structure the deal. Carver State Bank, which has an office in Hapeville, served as the syndicate’s Lead Arranger. By partnering with the Black bank syndicate, the Hawks have demonstrated that Black banks can compete with money center banks for commercial loans.
“Today’s announcement reflects our commitment to putting our values into action–by choosing to work with Black banks and drawing attention to the need for Black banks to thrive as they work toward addressing the lack of access to capital in Black communities,” said Tony Ressler, Principal Owner of the Atlanta Hawks. “We always strive to ask ourselves how the Hawks can best help those in the community that are already helping others, and today’s announcement is another step in our commitment to use the Hawks as a positive agent of change. This is both good for the community and good business to empower new and existing Black businesses.”
The National Black Bank Foundation and its investment unit, the Black Bank Fund, were formed in 2020 to uplift Black-owned banks and the communities they serve. Working with corporate and philanthropic partners, the Foundation provides legal, regulatory, and operational assistance to Black banks while the Fund will invest $250 million in direct Tier 1 capital into existing Black banks through stock purchases.
Moreover, Carver State Bank is using the Atlanta Hawks’ strong credit rating to bolster the capital cushion for Black banks so that they can better serve their traditional customer base.
“The Atlanta Hawks are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to being an ally of Black businesses, and Carver State Bank is proud to be the lead institution on this historic transaction. By selecting an all-Black bank syndicate to provide this financing, the Hawks are strengthening all of our banks,” said Robert E. James, II, President, Carver Development & Chairman-Elect, National Bankers Association. “What we earn from this loan strengthens our collective ability to provide even more loans and financial services to Black small businesses and consumers, and we are able to show our ability to pull off a large, sophisticated loan transaction. Tony and his team are real allies in the movement for racial equity.”
Carver State Bank led the syndicate of Black banks, which also included Carver Federal Savings Bank, Citizens Savings Bank, Citizens Trust Bank, Commonwealth National Bank, Industrial Bank, Liberty Bank & Trust, M&F Bank, and Optus Bank. Under federal regulation, banks can only create credit roughly equivalent to 10 times their Tier 1 capital, which is generated from interest on deposits, banking fees, and the sale of stock. With the support of the NBBF, Black-owned banks are now better able to come together in order to become competitive with major banks, significantly increase the amount of money they can lend, and thereby increase the services they can provide to the communities they serve.
There are only 18 Black-owned banks left, according to the FDIC. The retrenchment of Black banks has created bank branch deserts that have led to historic disparities between America’s banked and unbanked populations. According to the Federal Reserve, 49 percent of Black households were unbanked or underbanked in 2019, compared to just 15 percent of white families.
Earlier this fall, Tony Ressler announced he would invest $40 million to bolster economic empowerment in Black communities in the city of Atlanta while expanding their community and diversity & inclusion commitment. In their plan, they invested $5 million into the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.