Alex Meruelo Rumors
The Hawks will open their lockout-delayed season on Tuesday after a turbulent off-season in which the Spirit ownership group agreed to sell the team to Meruelo, a Los Angeles businessman, and then had the deal fall apart. That leaves the would-be sellers back in the owners’ seats. “I’m very pleased with where things ended up,” Michael Gearon Jr., a member of the ownership group, said in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal- Constitution. “We are excited about the start of the season.”
But when the Meruelo deal collapsed in the NBA approval process last month, the ownership group -– led by Bruce Levenson, a Maryland businessman who serves as the Hawks’ NBA governor, and Gearon, a lifelong Atlantan –- announced it was removing the for-sale sign from the basketball franchise. “At the beginning of the summer . . . I was just drained and exhausted,” Gearon said. “I was emotionally spent. I thought maybe a new face [as owner] might make a difference. By being able to step back over the summer, [I was able to] get recharged, get energized again.”
The Hornets, currently owned by the league, will be sold at some point. Chairman Jac Sperling told the New Orleans Times-Picayune last month that “we’ve started having conversations with potential owners already” despite the lockout, adding, “The number of potential owners has grown. I think the commissioner mentioned there were four or five, and I think the number has increased a little bit. There are some potential owners who live in New Orleans and some who live outside of New Orleans.” David Stern would not only love to have Johnson in a prominent role in the NBA again — Magic remains a Lakers vice president, but with little day-to-day involvement — but the commissioner has said he expects Johnson to one day be part of an ownership group. Atlanta is an unexpected option again after the sale to Alex Meruelo fell through last week. Bruce Levenson, one of the heads of the ownership group that would continue to run the team, quickly said the Hawks are no longer for sale. That is either true or, just maybe, what he has to say. Either way, Johnson will probably find out for himself.
Southern California millionaire Alex Meruelo announced Friday that he has ended his bid to purchase the Atlanta Hawks. During the summer Meruelo had reached a reported $300-million agreement to buy a majority stake in the team and its Philips Arena. Reports first surfaced last month that the deal might be in jeopardy. “Although all parties negotiated in good faith, we were not able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on some key issues given the current uncertainty surrounding the [NBA] labor issue,” Meruelo said in a statement. “As a result we mutually decided to terminate the deal effective immediately.”
Steve Kyler: Sources close to Hawks in May explained the Alex Meruelo was orginally an attempt to secure additional investors. Meruelo wanted entire team. This was a case of a very motivated buyer willing to take on the team… Current ownership wasn’t seeking a sale… This deal found them. Sources close to this process say adding an additional minority investor still possible, current group plans to keep the team going forward.
Meruelo confirmed that the deal is off and provided the AJC with this statement: “I want to thank the Atlanta community who welcomed me with open arms. I am humbled and blessed by their warmth and hospitality. Basketball is my passion, but professional basketball is a business. Although all parties negotiated in good faith, we were not able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on some key issues given the current uncertainty surrounding the labor issue. As a result we mutually decided to terminate the deal effective immediately. I have great respect for the owners of the Hawks and the league and remain committed to fulfilling my dream of owning an NBA team. I look forward to that opportunity in the future.”
“The Atlanta Hawks are no longer for sale,” Levenson said in a statement. “We’re excited to remain as owners of the Hawks and are committed to building on our string of four straight playoff appearances.” Meruelo announced on Aug. 7 what he called a “definitive” agreement to buy a majority stake in the team, subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors. The approval process bogged down after the NBA required economic conditions that were not part of Meruelo’s original deal.