Alex Meruelo reached a deal in principle to buy the Atlanta Hawks early this offseason. But it turns out that he may not get the needed stamp of approval from the NBA, which is skeptical he has the funds to effectively operate the franchise, reports ESPN's Marc Stein.
Meruelo, who owns the La Pizza Loco chain, agreed to buy the team from the Atlanta Spirit group for an unspecific amount in August. Even then, Forbes was skeptical of the deal, reporting that the Spirit group would be financing part of the deal and that there was actually very little (if any) cash changing hands. Essentially, Meruelo would be taking on the Spirit's debt.
In a statement to ESPN, Meruelo assuaged concerns that he doesn't have the financial wherewithal to run the Hawks in a "first-class manner."
The NBA rarely denies purchasers who reach an agreement in principle with franchise owners. In fact, the NBA has approved all six bids that have come before it within the past six years.
The Atlanta Spirit group is a failed consortium of local businessmen who have bickered over the direction of the franchise for years, and are considered to be the worst ownership situation in sports, which is really something when you consider what the L.A. Clippers and L.A. Dodgers have gone through.