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Alex Meruelo quits a deal to buy the Atlanta Hawks

November 4, 2011 |  3:03 pm

Alex620

Alex Meruelo, a child of Cuban immigrants, was set to become the first Latino owner of an NBA team when he reached an agreement to buy the Atlanta Hawks during the summer.

But Friday Meruelo dropped out of the deal, a week after reports emerged that the NBA had some concerns about his funding plans for the reported $300-million sale.

Meruelo issued a statement Friday: "Basketball is my passion, but professional basketball is a business. Although all parties negotiated in good faith, we were not able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on some key issues given the current uncertainty surrounding the [NBA] labor issue."

The NBA locked out its players on July 1 and it's uncertain if a labor deal can be done in time to salvage the 2011-12 season.

Meruelo, whose office is in Downey, got his start with the La Pizza Loca chain, but has diversified into commercial real estate, construction and broadcasting businesses.

The Hawks' ownership group said it was a mutal agreement to terminate the sale.

[Updated: 5:35 p.m.:]

Negotiations fell through during the NBA approval process. Sources close to the situation, but not authorized to speak publicly about it, offered two reasons.

The NBA worried that the Hawks deal was too highly leveraged, they said. Also, NBA officials asked for additional financial considerations not included in the original agreement.

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--Barry Stavro

Photo: Alex Meruelo. Credit: W.A. Harewood / AP.

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