Wednesday, July 20, 2011

NBA Global Vision Eyes Phl Exchange

If ever a Filipino group buys into an NBA franchise, it will be with the blessings of the pro league’s executive management as there is a clear vision to establish a more pronounced presence in Asia.

Working to cement an Asian foothold in the NBA is the Cincinnati-based firm East West Private LLC (limited liability company) whose top-notch investment advisers Patty Scott and Chao Chuatico-Espaldon are brokering a deal for Filipino ownership of a West Coast franchise.

Espaldon, whose brother Nonoy played for two teams in four PBA seasons in 1992-95, said a group associated with PLDT chairman Manny Pangilinan is reviewing the possibility of taking over an NBA team.

Sources said at least three NBA franchises were initially available but the Philadelphia 76ers were recently scratched off the list after a sale was announced to leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris, Blackstone Group senior managing director David Blitzer and the investor group Art Wrubel and Jason Levien last week. Another team was in the radar because of its competitive lineup but fell out of the priority list because the host city isn’t a major media market and has a small Filipino community.

East-West Private is only two years old but has quickly built a solid reputation because of Scott’s extensive background in wealth management and Espaldon’s credentials as a marketing executive with a multinational consumer goods giant. It boasts of a global network, facilitates the world-wide expansion of US-based companies, performs branding work for celebrity athletes and manages the personal resources of a wide range of clients.

Last March, Scott and Espaldon presented a profile of an NBA franchise that may be open for sale at the right price in a private meeting with Pangilinan who saw in the project an interesting opportunity not only for investment but also for hoisting the Philippine flag in a global setting. The franchise was later revealed to be the Sacramento Kings. However, the Kings owners are reportedly not entertaining any offers for a buyout at the moment.

Still, Pangilinan and a group of close advisers recently visited Sacramento and toured the Kings facilities, including the Power Balance Arena and the training gym. Pangilinan was even given a No. 1 Kings jersey. What needs to get the ball rolling is a letter of intent from Pangilinan to make an offer. Pangilinan was reportedly invited to witness the recent NBA Finals between Dallas and Miami but could not attend due to his busy work schedule.

“The NBA is aware that there is growing interest in the league in Asia,” said Espaldon. “It’s not just about a China exchange. It’s about an Asian exchange. It’s also about the Philippines’ passion for the sport – Filipinos may not be tall for basketball but they’ve got the heart for it. The NBA is very positive about the possibility of an Asian owner and very encouraging.

There is interest from a Chinese group to invest in an NBA franchise and I know Mr.Pangilinan’s group is very interested, too. It’s possible that an Asian consortium could be established. But for Filipinos, it’s a dream come true for a countryman to own an NBA franchise, for a Filipino to play in the NBA and for a Filipino to be in the coaching staff of an NBA team. I heard that if it doesn’t happen this year, it will happen next year.”

The NBA is awaiting the emergence of a Filipino cager to break through after players from China, South Korea, Iran, Japan and Chinese-Taipei made the leap. Fil-Am guard Raymond Townsend of UCLA has played in the NBA but there remains no full-blooded Filipino to make it to the majors.

The factor that gives East-West an edge in brokering the deal is its well-connected network.

Scott and Espaldon are tight with a slew of NBA agents, coaches and team officials. It was in fact during a dinner in Los Angeles with two former NBA stars and Filipino guests that talk of a Filipino owning a franchise was initially broached last February.

Espaldon and her family had just come from watching games in Boston, New York and Orlando when she arranged for Manila visitors to watch the All-Star Game in Los Angeles. The guests included a wealthy Filipino businessman with a deep love for the sport. The businessman said he would participate in an owning consortium but declined to take a lead role. The discussion led to a suggestion for a proposal to be sent to Pangilinan.

As it turned out, Espaldon went to Manila a month later and bumped into Talk ‘N’ Text coach Chot Reyes at the Dusit Thani Hotel. “I was in town on business and it was by accident that my brother Paul and I ran into Chot who later introduced us to Mr. Pangilinan,” she said.

East-West is organizing the two-game Ultimate All-Star Weekend series at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday and Sunday. “The idea was hatched just about three weeks ago,” Espaldon said. “When we got the go-signal from Mr. Pangilinan, it led to days of sleepless nights, making phonecalls, getting confirmations and checking schedules. It was a real challenge to put this together. We promised to deliver and in a few days, we’ll find out if we did our job.”

(source: Phil Star)


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