AIR21's top official has confirmed that negotiations are in the final stages for the sale of its PBA ballclub to Metro Pacific Investments Inc., which is set to field a team in the league next season carrying the banner of NLEX.
Lito Alvarez, Air21's longtime representative to the PBA board, informed the coaching staff and the players of the looming sale just moments after the Express' season ended with a 90-111 loss to second seed Rain or Shine in the Governors Cup playoffs.
“Yes, kami ang kausap nila. We have already agreed. May kaunting detalye na lang kaming pina-plantsa,” said Alvarez. “Hindi kami una nagkasundo sa presyo, nagbigay sila ng counter-offer, hindi ko gusto. Ngayon nagpadala ako ng offer ko, pinag-aaralan na nila. Kaya hinihintay ko na lang tawag nila.”
Once the buyout is complete, NLEX will seek board approval to become the third team of the Manny V. Pangilinan bloc in the league after Talk 'N Text and Meralco.
After two meetings over two separate weekends - one in Manila and the second in Macau, Alvarez said he was elated when NLEX officials announced that they were no longer pushing through with their plan to put up an expansion ballclub.
“Oo, natuwa ako dun. Kasi ibig sabihin, oras na lang hinihintay ko para tumawag na sila sa akin. Yun lang naman ang kulang eh. Offers are there already,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez, though, declined to discuss the figures involved. “Wala pa akong masabing presyo kasi nagtatawaran pa. Pero tama yung una ninyong sinulat, a little over P100 million,” Alvarez said with a smile.
Meanwhile, Spin.ph also saw Alvarez talking to all of the Air21 players regarding the looming sale and answering question from the players regarding live contracts, renewals and other matters.
Alvarez was even seen talking to his prized recruit Aldrech Ramos, saying, “Live ang contract mo, di ba? Okay ka sa kanila (NLEX). Gusto nila ang laro mo, talagang ang laki ng pinagbago.”
The amiable Air21 governor also had a long heart-to-heart talk with ageless star Asi Taulava, who was assured that a contract is being readied to him by Air21 before the sale.
“Ni-review kasi ng NLEX yung mga contract ng mga players. Sinilip na nila kung sino ang expiring at sino ang may existing contracts,” Alvarez told Spin.ph.
Here's a video of Alvarez talking to the players about the impending sale: