The Atlanta Hawks have a new future in the NBA, as they will soon be owned by California businessman Alex Meruelo, who now owns a majority stake in the team. This will be a history making deal, as he will be the first Hispanic owner of an NBA official team. Meruelo will also have exclusive operating rights to the Philips Arena. By the end of the year, the deal should be closed.
Contrary to what some sources are reporting, California-based Meruelo does not plan to move the franchise. In interviews, the businessman speaks highly of the local fans, the Atlanta community, the Phillips Arena and the team legacy. Indeed, the team has been running since 1946 and even won the championship back in 1958. Meruelo speaks with great respect and enthusiasm. “I am a lifelong basketball fan…and this is a dream come true for me.”
This is not the first major transaction for Atlanta this year. Earlier this year, the Atlanta Spirit Group sold the Thrashers (of the NHL) to a Canadian source who moved the team to Winnipeg. At least we can still watch the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons…though they were both clobbered last season respectively. Hmm, maybe it’s all that Atlanta summer heat!
The big question is, will this ownership change affect the regular season of the Atlanta Hawks? As with most NBA owners who make a huge financial investment in a floundering team, Meruelo is expected to be actively involved in the team’s success. While few sources are concerned about a change of venue (it would simply cost too much money), a lot of people are talking about new strategies, new players, new coaches and a new direction for 2011-2012.
Since the Hawks have had a disastrous and embarrassing history over the past six years, the only place for the Hawks to go is up. Coach Larry Drew and manager Rick Sund certainly haven’t been winning championships, though they did help the Atlanta Hawks to finish the 2010 and 2011 season with a record of 44-38, which was formidable. They placed third in the Southeast Division behind Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.
Will new ownership affect the Hawks? Or will Atlanta continue to be a stepping stone to other great NBA teams?