There's nothing like keeping things in the family: The Atlanta Hawks' new owner has gotten his private equity firm to buy a stake in the popular National Basketball Association franchise.
The financier Alex Meruelo is being joined by Meruelo Capital Partners in the purchase of the Hawks, according to the editor of peHUB.com, Jonathan Marino.
Marino writes in his column today that the deal is awaiting approval from the NBA. Meruelo reportedly paid $300 million for the team in a deal that includes taking on the debt on the Hawks' arena. According to Marino, it's a league mandate that a NBA team be controlled by just one entity, which means Meruelo Capital Partners had no choice but to take a minority position as part of its namesake's investment.
"The private equity firm has a broad mandate, covering investments in construction and property management to a hotel to a television station to restaurant investments," says Marino. "Meruelo himself launched the Pizza Loco chain in the mid-1980s before establishing his own investment firm. He will become the first Hispanic owner of an NBA franchise in league history."
The chief investment officer and president of California-based Meruelo Capital, Xavier Gutierrez, declined to comment on specifics of the deal.
A professional basketball franchise could be a challenging investment for private equity firms like Meruelo's and the shop run by Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores. The NBA'a ambitious expansion during the past decade has left many teams hemorrhaging cash, not to mention the fact that for both the Pistons and Hawks are coming off recent seasons where they were championship contenders and the hometown crowd has come to expect a winner, according to Marino.
"The Hawks will be facing some hefty operating expenses if they hope to retain the superstar talents of Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford that made Atlanta a playoff contender in recent years. It is widely expected they will lose one of their top players to free agency; losing both would prove a major and immediate setback for Atlanta - and Meruelo," says Marino in his peHUB.com column.