HAS the current movement in the Barako Bull front office something to do with the possible return of the Air21 Express franchise to the PBA?
Rumors of an Air21 return to the pro league just a season after selling its franchise to NLEX started floating after a series of intriguing moves in the Barako Bull front office that led to the departure of men loyal to team owner George Chua.
You see, Air21’s mother company, Linaheim Corporation of sports patron Bert Lina, has a stake in the Photokina franchise after buying a minority share in the Chua-owned company back in 2011.
Technically, Barako Bull was a sister team of Air21 before the Express franchise was sold to NLEX last July.
Over the past week, a major shake-up has rocked the Barako Bull organization that led to the departure not only of coach Siot Tanquingcen, who was replaced by Koy Banal, but also of longtime team manager Raffy Casyao.
Also gone were Chua's son Paul, who used to be part of the team's operations; alternate team governor Eric Noora and assistant team manager Jay Llanos Dee.
The shake-up doesn't end there.
According to team insiders, another son of Chua, Michael, is set to step down as head of basketball operations of Barako Bull over the next few days.
The changes have raised a lot of questions, more so since Barako Bull has long faced accusations of being a 'farm team' of San Miguel Corp. after being reduced into a veritable dumping ground of former players and coaches of the three teams under the SMC umbrella.
The suspicions were all the more bolstered after Barako Bull's new team manager, Reymark Rodriguez, a college teammate of Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua, admitted to Spin.ph that he doesn't know team owner George Chua.
However, there are also rumors that Air21 may be laying the groundwork for a PBA comeback by way of Barako Bull - questions which Spin.ph hoped Lina would address in a telephone interview.
"No comment on possible takeover. Whatever is in the Commissioner's Office, iyon 'yun," Lina said. "Let the events flow. Hindi pwedeng i-preempt."
The longtime sports patron was also coy when asked if he had a hand in the changes.
"Ok lang (naman na may alam kami sa nangyayari) oo (alam namin yun)... Ano problema? Talaga namang ganun, " said the amiable Dos Uno president. "Tinatanong mo kung may hand kami? Oo. Eh kasama pa rin ako dun sa team."
Asked if there is a possibility that Air21 will stage a comeback in ther PBA, Lina replied in the affirmative.
"Walang problema, very fluid lahat 'yan. Hindi naman kami umaalis. Andun pa advertisement namin (sa PBA gamea)," replied Lina.
Spin.ph efforts to get in touch with George Chua and his top officials to shed light on the matter proved futile as they continue to decline interview requests.