MANILA, Philippines -- (2nd UPDATE) After more than three decades, the Alaska franchise will be retiring from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Team owner Fred Uytengsu made the shock announcement on Wednesday morning.
"We thought long and hard before making this final decision," Uytengsu said in a statement. "However, we believe that this will allow us to focus our resources on providing affordable nutrition for Filipino families."
The decision is also aligned with the global directive of Alaska Milk Corp.'s parent company, Royal FrieslandCampina, to implement an organizational transformation that ensures long-term business sustainability.
The ongoing Governors' Cup will be the final conference for the franchise.
Speaking in a press conference on Wednesday, an emotional Uytengsu said the situation was "really, really tough."
"All good things come to an end, and at the end of the season, it will be our 35th and final season in the PBA," he said.
Alaska joined the PBA in 1986. Over the 35 seasons, they were known as the Milkmen, the Hills Bros. Coffee Kings, and the Air Force, before switching to their current name, the Aces, in 2000.
One of the most storied franchises in PBA history, Alaska won 14 championships, including a Grand Slam in the 1996 season. Its last championship came in the 2013 PBA Commissioner's Cup, when the Aces swept Barangay Ginebra in the finals.
Uytengsu, who was 24 when he started the Alaska franchise, expressed his gratitude to all involved in the organization, as well as in the PBA.
"The Aces franchise will always be very special to me," he said. "I learned so much about team dynamics and building championship teams from the players and coaching staff."
"We take great pride in our participation and success all these years and know we won with integrity. I also want to thank the PBA for our many years of partnership and wish the league continued success in the years to come," he added.
The organization assured that the team personnel, from the players and coaches to the staff, "will be taken care of as they transition into a new chapter in their careers."
According to Uytengsu, selling the franchise to another company is a possibility, although he also bared that "there are no immediate buyers at this point in time."
"If there is not a buyer at that time, the franchise will revert to the PBA, and pursuant to the bylaws of the PBA, the players will go in a dispersal draft," he also said.
Currently, the Aces have a 3-2 win-loss record in the 2021 PBA Governors' Cup.
Despite its past success, there have been several rumors over the years that Alaska was on its way out of the league.
In June 2020, a report cited an unnamed source claiming that the Aces will leave the league as its parent company decided that running the basketball team is no longer a viable operation.
At the time, the report was quashed by the Alaska organization as well as PBA commissioner Willie Marcial.
Less than two years later, the Aces are indeed making their final bow in the PBA, in what is undoubtedly a sad development for the league.
The Aces will be playing on Thursday, February 17, against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Below is the full statement of the Alaska franchise: