The sale of the Atlanta Hawks to a Southern California pizza chain owner that was agreed to back in August, has been terminated according to a report from the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” and for the time being the present owners of the franchise have taken the team off of the market. The deal to sell the team as well as Phillips Arena to California businessman Alex Meruelo, was terminated by both sides after questions about funding for the team were raised by the Association. Meruelo, is a land-developer as well as owning La Pizza Loca, a chain with over 50 locations in Southern California.
The current ownership group known as the Atlanta Spirit will retain control of the franchise according to one of the club’s principal owner’s Bruce Levenson. He released a statement Friday saying “The Atlanta Hawks are no longer for sale. We’re excited to remain as owners of the Hawks and are committed to building on our string of four straight playoff appearances.”
Meruelo also issued a statement expressing his appreciation to the people of Atlanta. The 48-year-old businessman said “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.”
Meruelo’s parents emigrated from Cuba in 1961, and he would have become the first Hispanic majority owner of an NBA franchise. He opened his first pizza shop at the age of 21, and now has a chain of over 50 shops in Southern California.