Alex Meruelo says he has 'ample resources' to buy Atlanta Hawks

AP Sports WriterOctober 28, 2011 

ATLANTA -- Almost three months after announcing he had reached an agreement to purchase controlling interests of the Atlanta Hawks, Alex Meruelo on Thursday tried to dispel doubts he has the resources to buy and run the team.

In a statement released by his Meruelo Group on Thursday, Meruelo said he is qualified to take over the team and operating rights to Philips Arena.

“I have more than ample resources to purchase and operate the Hawks in a first class manner,” Meruelo said. “I am committed to the purchase of the Atlanta Hawks. While I can’t comment on the details of the approval process, I have and will do everything I can to bring the process to a positive conclusion.”

Meruelo, a California developer and pizza chain owner, is trying to purchase the team from the Atlanta Spirit group headed by Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon Jr. The deal awaits approval from the league.

Levenson and Gearon did not respond to requests from The Associated Press for comment.

The NBA Board of Governors last week approved the sale of the Philadelphia 76ers but has taken no public action on Meruelo’s proposed purchase.

Meruelo’s statement followed reports the NBA could be awaiting confirmation of his financial standing.

NBA senior vice president of communications Tim Frank said there would be no comment from the league on the status of Meruelo’s agreement.

Meruelo, the son of Cuban immigrants, is trying to become the NBA’s first Hispanic team owner. He was born in New York and raised in California.

Meruelo’s agreement to buy the Hawks was announced after the ownership group headed by Levenson and Gearon sold the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers to a group that moved the team to Winnipeg.

When the agreement was announced on Aug. 8, Meruelo said Levenson and Gearon would retain a minority share of the team “for a period of time.”

If the purchase is not approved by the league, the group headed by Levenson and Gearon would retain ownership or seek another buyer.

The Meruelo Group is a Downey, Calif.-based investment firm which recently acquired the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev., for a reported $42.45 million. The firm also recently bought KWHY-TV, a Spanish-language station in Los Angeles.

Meruelo founded La Pizza Loca, a chain of more than 50 restaurants in Southern California which cater to the Latino community, according to the Meruelo Group website.

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