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Officials dismiss report that purchase of Hawks in 'jeopardy'

October 26, 2011 |  6:53 pm

Hawks1Officials familiar with Southland resident Alex Meruelo’s attempt to purchase the Atlanta Hawks dismissed a report Wednesday that the deal is in jeopardy.

ESPN.com reported the NBA has “concerns” with Meruelo’s effort to fund the deal to buy the Hawks from the current Atlanta Spirit ownership group.

The NBA this month approved a change in ownership with the Philadelphia 76ers but hasn’t yet signed off on Meruelo’s purchase of the Hawks.

Meruelo, the son of Cuban immigrants who built a business empire in development and with his local La Pizza Loca restaurant chain after starting with a downtown tuxedo rental store as a teen, originally struck an agreement in principle with the Atlanta Spirit group to buy the Hawks and the team’s home, Philips Arena.

In a statement released Wednesday, Meruelo said, “I have more than ample resources to purchase and operate the Hawks in a first-class manner. 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.”

Officials familiar with that arrangement but unauthorized to speak publicly about it told The Times on Wednesday that the Spirit executives were comfortable with the funding.

The NBA is now pushing for more information from Meruelo about how he’ll fund the franchise, said the officials, who speculate the report of the deal's being in “jeopardy” is part of the effort to pressure Meruelo to modify the deal and “a grand overstatement.”

The officials would not speculate on what the NBA-requested modifications are.

The intensely private, hard-driving Meruelo made his millions by not shying from hard bargains and identifying opportune times to invest -– like now, with the NBA in lockout mode.

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-- Lance Pugmire

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter.com/latimespugmire

Photo: Alex Meruelo speaks to the media on Aug. 8 after reaching an agreement to purchase a majority stake in the Atlanta Hawks. Credit: Tami Chappell / Reuters

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