Los Angeles businessman Alex Meruelo has reached an agreement to buy a majority stake in the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Sunday.
In an exclusive interview with the newspaper over the weekend, Meruelo said that if the deal was approved, he would be proud to become the first Hispanic owner in the NBA.
“It is important to me,” Meruelo, whose parents arrived in the US from Cuba in 1961, told the newspaper. “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.”
The Hawks, who are to remain in Atlanta, were planning an announcement regarding the widely reported deal yesterday.
The deal comes in the midst of an NBA labor dispute in which the league has locked out players. The dispute threatens to affect the upcoming 2011-2012 season and because of it, Meruelo said he was unable discuss his possible plans for the franchise.
Meruelo, 48, told the newspaper he and the club’s current ownership, the Atlanta Spirit Group, have a signed agreement that also includes the operating rights to Philips Arena.
Any sale remains subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors.
Meruelo 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.
Meruelo said some members of the Atlanta Spirit group would maintain minority ownership positions, but that he would own more than 50 percent.
“I will be in complete control of the team,” he told the Journal-Constitution.
The same ownership group recently sold the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers to a group that is moving them to Winnipeg, Canada.
The Atlanta Spirit Group purchased the teams and the operating rights to the arena they shared in 2004.
The Hawks have reached the NBA playoffs in each of the past four years.