SBD/October 27, 2011/Franchises

Sources Dismiss Report That Hawks Sale To Alex Meruelo Is In Jeopardy

Meruelo said he has resources to purchase and operate Hawks in a "first-class manner"
Sources “dismissed a report” yesterday that said L.A. businessman Alex Meruelo's attempt to purchase the Hawks “is in jeopardy,” according to Lance Pugmire of the L.A. TIMES. ESPN.com reported the NBA “has ‘concerns’ with Meruelo’s effort to fund the deal to buy the Hawks from the current Atlanta Spirit ownership group.” Meruelo yesterday in a statement said, “I have more than ample resources to purchase and operate the Hawks in a first-class manner.” Sources said that the Spirit execs “were comfortable with the funding,” but that the NBA is “pushing for more information from Meruelo about how he’ll fund the franchise.” The sources “speculate the report of the deal’s being in ‘jeopardy’ is part of the effort to pressure Meruelo to modify the deal and ‘a grand overstatement’” (L.A. TIMES, 10/27). In the original report, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein cited sources as saying that “there are concerns at the league level and within the Hawks’ current ownership group, headed by Michael Gearon Jr. and Bruce Levenson, about whether Meruelo indeed has the sufficient funds to purchase a majority stake in the franchise and operate an NBA team.” A source said that Gearon and Levenson “have acknowledged in recent league meetings that they might have to own the team for at least one more year.” Sources said that the “prospect of Meruelo's deal collapsing was mentioned Tuesday when the Board of Governors convened in New York to discuss revenue-sharing plans” (ESPN.com, 10/26). In Atlanta, Tim Tucker notes both the NBA and the Atlanta Spirit yesterday “declined to discuss the Meruelo matter.” A source said that as of late yesterday, “the proposed deal had not been terminated by either side, or by the NBA, but was in peril” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/27).

TIME FOR A CHANGE
: In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote Meruelo's deal to buy the Hawks falling apart "would be bad news." Atlanta Spirit “is a damaged brand at this point and new ownership is needed.” Meruelo does not “bring any guarantees as to how good of an owner he would be, but he certainly would provide a needed new face in the executive suite” (AJC.com, 10/26). Also in Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote the “refreshing part about Meruelo is that this franchise’s checkered history doesn’t faze him, but there’s now a chance he could become another paragraph in the tangled tale of woe.” And then “we need ask: If not Meruelo, who?” Bradley: “Could anyone in Atlanta summon up one iota of enthusiasm for yet another season of Hawks basketball as presented by Atlanta Spirit?” (AJC.com, 10/26).
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