MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has approved the sale of the Air21 franchise to Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MIPC), which owns the NLEX Warriors.
This paved the way for the NLEX Warriors' entry to the PBA in time for the league’s 40th season in October.
PBA Commissioner Chito Salud also welcomed the entry of expansion teams Blackwater Sports and KIA Motors.
“I am pleased to announce that today, the PBA Board of Governors approved unanimously the assignment, transfer, and sale of the rights over an existing member team to Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), which will carry the name NLEX Warriors. The owner of this existing franchise is Airfreight 2100, Inc., carrying the name Air21 Express,” the PBA chief said in an announcement shortly before Game 4 of the Rain or Shine versus Alaska semifinals.
“Therefore, for the next season, the PBA will be having two expansion teams – Blackwater Sports and Team KIA, and one other new team taking over the said franchise of Airfreight 2100, Inc. – NLEX Warriors.”
NLEX was supposed to be one of the three expansion team to join the PBA.
MIPC, however, opted to purchase an existing franchise instead so it could get a free hand in assembling a competitive squad.
In contrast, KIA Motors and Blackwater weren’t granted direct-hire concessions by the PBA board.
The sale also means that NLEX will inherit the Air21 team led by veteran-but very capable center Asi Taulava.
“That means that in essence, the new team will be acquiring all the players of the existing ballclub,” said Salud.
He, however, admitted that NLEX will decide if it will retain the services of the Air21 coaching staff headed by Franz Pumaren.
According to a Spin.ph report, the Air21 franchise was sold for P100 million. Salud refused to confirm this.
“I’m not in the position to disclose the acquisition cost at this time because the parties are scheduled to submit the deed of assignment and transfer of the said franchise in the next couple of days, if not by early next week,” said Salud.
The sale got the nod of all 10 teams in the PBA Board meeting on Thursday afternoon.