Senior Turner Broadcasting executive Steve Koonin has been named chief executive of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team. He’ll be in charge of operations for both the National Basketball Assn. franchise and its home court Philips Arena.
Koonin will also have an ownership stake in the team.
A well-regarded programming and marketing executive, Koonin has been with Turner for 14 years, rising to the rank of president of Turner Entertainment Networks, whose holdings include TNT, TBS, TruTV and Cartoon Network. TNT has carried NBA games for several years, and Koonin has close ties to both the Hawks and the the league.
Turner is a unit of Time Warner Inc.
Known for his jocularity and down-to-earth persona, Koonin has always been a huge sports fan who often spends his mornings listening to sports radio, particularly the “Dan Patrick Show.”
In a statement, Koonin cited his Atlanta roots as being a major motivation in leaving Turner and its parent Time Warner for the Hawks.
“My family has been a part of this city for nearly a century,” Koonin said, adding that, “I have watched the excitement and potential of the entire city growing together as our sports teams achieve success. I couldn’t be more excited to join the Hawks organization.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver praisded Koonin, saying he was “one of the very best executives and creative minds in the entertainment industry."
Atlanta Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson called Koonin a “game-changer” whose expertise in marketing and media “makes him the ideal leader to usher the Atlanta Hawks into a new era.”
Koonin’s departure is the latest high-profile exit from Turner Broadcasting in the last several weeks as a new leadership team settles in the wake of longtime Chief Executive Phil Kent’s departure.
Kent was replaced by John Martin, who had been chief financial officer of Time Warner Inc. David Levy, a former head of sales and distribution, was also named president of Turner Broadcasting.
Last month, Stu Snyder, the longtime president of Turner Animation, said he was resigning. Greg D’Alba, the veteran head advertising for CNN also recently departed.
In a memo to Turner staff, Levy acknowledged the departures and hinted at more to come.
“Change is happening across our company now,” Levy wrote. “These changes reflect a larger plan to evolve Turner for next-generation success and profitability,” he told staff, adding, “this effort will bring new voices to the conversation and reveal things we can and should do differently.”
A search is underway for Koonin’s replacement, a Turner insider said.
For Koonin, the Hawks position is his third high-profile post. Before joining Turner, he was head of marketing for Coca-Cola.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.