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View Full Version : Hawks sold to businessman Alex Meruelo; becomes NBA's first Hispanic owner



Bravo95
08-07-2011, 11:16 AM
Los Angeles businessman Alex Meruelo has reached an agreement to buy a majority ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an exclusive weekend interview.

The Hawks are planning an announcement for Monday.

Meruelo said he and the Hawks' current owners, the Atlanta Spirit Group, have a signed agreement, which also includes the operating rights to Philips Arena. The deal is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors - a complicated process that could take months.

Meruelo, 48, is the founder and chairman of The Meruelo Group, a holding company that owns businesses ranging from pizza restaurants and construction firms to a casino and a TV station.

If the Hawks deal is approved and closes, Meruelo - a New York-born, California-raised son of Cuban immigrants -- would become the first Hispanic owner of an NBA franchise.

Meruelo (pronounced mur-rel-o) said some members of the Spirit group will maintain minority ownership positions but that he will own more than 50 percent and control ownership decisions. He would not be more specific about the size of his stake and would not divulge the price he has agreed to pay for it.

But he said, "I will be in complete control of the team."

Although his primary residence and business will remain in Southern California,

Meruelo said he plans to spend a lot of time in Atlanta and to buy a home here.

"If you look at my previous ... business ventures, I'm very hands-on, and this will be no different," he said.

Asked if there is any scenario in which he would seek to move the Hawks out of Atlanta, Meruelo said: "Absolutely no. None."

Owning an NBA team, he said, "has been a dream of mine and a passion, and you'll definitely see that as I become, hopefully, the owner in a short period of time."

The Atlanta Spirit Group initially led by Steve Belkin of Boston, Bruce Levenson and Ed Peskowitz of Washington and Michael Gearon Jr. of Atlanta - bought the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena rights from Time Warner in 2004. The group soon became mired in a bitter internal fight that pitted Belkin against his partners. A five-year legal battle finally ended in December when the estranged Belkin was bought out by his partners.

The Spirit this summer sold the Thrashers to a Canadian group that moved the team to Winnipeg.

Although the Spirit also had been actively seeking a buyer or investors for the Hawks for more than a year, the efforts were accelerated after the Thrashers transaction was completed.

Meruelo said he was never interested in buying the Thrashers.

Meruelo's business holdings have evolved from a single pizza restaurant, La Pizza Loco, that he opened in Los Angeles in 1985, when he was 21 years old. That lone pizzeria grew to a chain of 50 outlets in Latino communities throughout Southern California.

The Meruelo Group then began diversifying widely - into residential and commercial real-estate development in the late 1980s and into infrastructure and utility construction and engineering in the late 1990s.

In 2003 Meruelo co-founded a bank, and in 2009 he acquired a company that manufactures and distributes Asian food items.

The Meruelo Group's two acquisitions so far this year: a hotel-casino and a TV station.

Meruelo acquired the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino -- a 2,000-room hotel and 100,000-square-foot casino in Reno, Nevada - and KWHY-TV, a Spanish-language station in Los Angeles.

Meruelo would not be the first NBA owner with a casino in his portfolio. The Maloof family, which owns the Sacramento Kings, built The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas and remains a part-owner of it.

Although the NBA has not yet considered whether to approve Meruelo's purchase of the Hawks, the process would not have reached this point without the league giving the current owners an OK to pursue negotiations with him.

Meruelo said he quietly looked into buying several other NBA teams in recent years. He expressed interest in the Hawks early this year but said he briefly "bowed out" when the Spirit entered an exclusive negotiating period with outgoing San Diego Padres owner John Moores in the spring.

"I had said, This is what I'm willing to do. If you can do better, I understand,'" Meruelo said.

After the negotiations with Moores built little momentum, the exclusivity was ended by mutual agreement on May 20, reopening the process to Meruelo and other bidders.

"I guess, to my luck, it didn't work out with the individual they had an exclusivity with," Meruelo said. "And we got back in communications and hammered out a deal."

He agreed to the deal despite a labor dispute that has the NBA in a lockout and the 2011-12 season in doubt. Per instructions from the NBA, he would not comment on the lockout or any plans he might have for the Hawks if approved as owner.

Meruelo's parents arrived in the United States from Cuba in 1961, settling initially in Miami before moving to New York and, when he was around 3 years old, Southern California. He is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach.

"It is important to me," Meruelo said of potentially becoming the NBA's first Hispanic owner. "I'm very proud of my heritage. It's nice to be able to do something that is different and is not in the ordinary. I'm very blessed. I'm very lucky."
http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-hawks/l-a-businessman-buying-1083677.html

WadeCounty
08-07-2011, 11:28 AM
:speechless: WOW... all of this started with one simple pizza restaurant at the same age as I am. IDC about the rest of the article what amazed me was the amount of money just 1 pizza restaurant brought him that would lead him to opening up so many others and growing into other businesses from then on

ugafan
08-07-2011, 11:32 AM
**** yeah!

As long as the Spirit don't own us I'm happy. :dance2:

Bravo95
08-07-2011, 11:42 AM
:speechless: WOW... all of this started with one simple pizza restaurant at the same age as I am. IDC about the rest of the article what amazed me was the amount of money just 1 pizza restaurant brought him that would lead him to opening up so many others and growing into other businesses from then on
Clearly a guy who does not settle for "good enough." Exactly what this city and franchise needs. And the fact that he's closing the deal during a lockout shows how serious he is about owning the team.

ccg34
08-07-2011, 01:53 PM
Seattle baby!

C-Style
08-07-2011, 05:17 PM
NOw that's how you hustle

LA_Raiders
08-07-2011, 06:17 PM
Good for th NBA. Bringing some latino spice...

metsfaninSTL
08-07-2011, 09:08 PM
they should have moved back to st. louis

asandhu23
08-07-2011, 09:11 PM
How long before Fox News asks for his immigration papers?

NYKnicksAllDay
08-07-2011, 09:44 PM
I wonder how long before he changes his mind on not wanting to move them.

ugafan
08-08-2011, 12:52 PM
Hawks fans are better than Thrashers fans. We're not moving.

ugafan
08-08-2011, 12:53 PM
Actually, we can't be moved until like 2030 or something like that anyways so you guys can give up hope.

Hellcrooner
08-08-2011, 12:59 PM
the real question here.
is

If everybody is losing money why would anyone buy a team?......

Owners are full of ****.

Hellcrooner
08-08-2011, 01:04 PM
:speechless: WOW... all of this started with one simple pizza restaurant at the same age as I am. IDC about the rest of the article what amazed me was the amount of money just 1 pizza restaurant brought him that would lead him to opening up so many others and growing into other businesses from then on

is not that difficult.

1st you have to work like a maniac, hours hours and more hours, 24/7 non stop.

Then when working your *** off creates some money you start expanding a bit and being a COMPLETE crook to your employees and forcing them to work their ***** off beyond whats legal.
its all a chain from there.
of course you need to be ready to have No soul, no remorse and no ethics, because the higer level you get the most a mother ****er you need to become to go on growing your money,.

Bravo95
08-08-2011, 01:16 PM
Hawks fans are better than Thrashers fans. We're not moving.
Yeah, exactly. The size of the market (Top 10 in the country), relatively new arena with heavy bond payments still owed, and local demographics basically guarantee that this team isn't going anywhere.

The Thrashers would've succeeded had (1) ownership fired Don Waddell a long time ago, (2) the Heatley-Snyder tragedy not happened, and (3) ASG actually invested into marketing the product. If the owners don't act like they care about the team, neither will the fans.

The_Pharouh
08-08-2011, 01:48 PM
Good for th NBA

reffahead
08-08-2011, 06:19 PM
Good for th NBA

Better for Atlanta actually. First single owner since Ted Turner I believe and a self made man. I suspect he will fall in love with the Atl. Metro Area and eventually build champion here.

ugafan
08-08-2011, 06:28 PM
^
Arthur Blank.

Tony_Starks
08-08-2011, 06:58 PM
I would've liked to see Young Jeezy get the team....:confused:

NYKnicksAllDay
08-08-2011, 09:50 PM
Actually, we can't be moved until like 2030 or something like that anyways so you guys can give up hope.

I don't want them to move. I like being able to go to Knicks games whenever they come to town. I just think eventually he'll try to move them. Whether or not he'll be successful is another story.

Bravo95
08-08-2011, 10:59 PM
I don't want them to move. I like being able to go to Knicks games whenever they come to town. I just think eventually he'll try to move them. Whether or not he'll be successful is another story.
He also bought the rights to Philips Arena (a relatively new building with money already set aside for renovation projects) and assumed the debt owed from ASG. You don't do that if you plan on moving the team, especially since the other tenants, the Thrashers, just left town.

iggypop123
08-08-2011, 11:48 PM
i remember when they used to give his pizza at school as lunch. now i cant stand it. not exactly a welcome gift when you have about 110 tied up to a secondary sg.