AYALA Corp. has won the bidding war for the Philippine franchise of KIA Motors and is set to become the official distributor of the Korean-made cars in the country.
But no, there won’t be an impending PBA comeback for the Ayala group of companies, which previously owned the multi-titled Purefoods franchise.
A top KIA Picanto executive confirmed to SPIN.ph that the deal between Ayala Corp. and KIA is set to be made official, but doesn’t involve the ownership of KIA's franchise in the PBA.
“It’s official although documents have yet to be signed,” said the KIA top brass, who refused to be named pending the ‘official announcement’ of the sale.
“The PBA franchise is not included,” added the team official, stressing the PBA franchise is “owned by Columbian Autocar Corp. of Palawan Gov. Pepito Alvarez and not KIA Motors (of Korea).”
Ayala Corp. was responsible for establishing one of the most glamorous teams in the PBA when it entered the league in 1988 by acquiring the franchise of the original Tanduay squad.
The franchise carried the name Purefoods (after Purefoods Corp., then a subsidiary of Ayala Corp) and built a team around budding superstars Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, Jerry Codinera, Glenn Capacio, and Jack Tanuan - players it elevated from its champion squad in the amateur ranks.
It won a total of five championships under owner Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala until it decided to sell the company - the PBA franchise included - to San Miguel Corp. in 2001, ending 14 seasons of the Ayala Group’s active involvement in the league.
Ayala Corp. is also the one which imports and distributes Volkswagen vehicles in local market, which saw a 28.6 percent sale improvement last year as per records released by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, a showing that factored in the selection of the group as the winning bidder.
KIA's team has come under fire over the past few months, both for its poor performance as well as a questionable offseason deal sending the top pick overall in the last rookie draft to San Miguel for benchwarmers and a draft pick.
Last year, a report came out saying Phoenix Petroleum is set to acquire the KIA distributorship in the country in a deal that includes the acquisition of the PBA franchise lock, stock, and barrel, which would have paved the way for the oil company owning two ballclubs in the pro league.
But as it turned out, Phoenix was just one of the bidders that also reportedly included Buddy Zamora, chairman of Universal LRT Corporation (BVI).
“Dennis Uy (of Phoenix) was just one of the candidates bidding for KIA,” said the same official. “There was no decision yet by Korea (when the report came out).”
The KIA executive said Columbian Autocar Corp. will keep its PBA franchise although he refused to elaborate on the company's plans once the sale is completed.