MANNY Pangilinan on Tuesday confirmed that NLEX is talking to not just one but two existing PBA ballclubs in its bid to acquire a franchise in time for the pro league's next season.
Pangilinan, head of Metro Pacific Investments Inc. which controls NLEX among other major companies, made the revelation amid widespread speculation that NLEX's takeover of the Ari21 franchise is already a 'done deal.'
"Alam ko they are talking to one or two franchises," said Pangilinan, also the head of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, said after a press conference at SM Megamall on Tuesday.
Pressed on the second potential seller among the existing 10 teams, Pangilinan clammed up. "Tanungin n'yo na lang si (NLEX president) Mon Fernandez," he said.
Alaska has long been mentioned as a potential seller in league circles - speculation owner Wilfred Uytengsu readily dismissed as "so silly, it's laughable" in a short message to Spin.ph.
Rain or Shine co-owner Raymund Yu has also denied to Spin.ph that his PBA team is up for sale.
Even before Pangilinan made the revelation, there were already signs that the MVP group was talking to other prospective sellers among the existing PBA teams other than Air21.
For one, NLEX officials announced they would name the franchise the company is acquiring the moment it winds up its campaign in the Governors Cup - yet remained eerily silent a week after Air21's season ended in the quarterfinal stage.
Air21 governor Lito Alvarez had confirmed ongoing negotiations over the sale of the Bert Lina-owned franchise were in their final stages, saying his final asking price has already been made known to NLEX officials in a meeting in Macau two weeks ago.
“Nag-offer sila sa akin noong una. Hindi ko gusto, nag-counter offer ako. Tumawad sila. So nagbigay ulit ako ng bago kong offer, yun ang nasa kanila ngayon. Hinihintay ko na lang tawag,” said Alvarez.
When told that multiple Spin.ph sources had said that NLEX is looking at another potential seller, Alvarez sounded alarmed.
“Pero tingin ko talaga walang ibang tinigtignang (team) kungdi kami eh,” he said. “Pero kung may ibang kausap at sabi nga daw mas mababa yung offer, eh patay kami run.”
Adding to the mystery, Spin.ph got a puzzling response from Metro Pacific Investments big boss Pangilinan on Monday night.
“I don’t like to confirm (if it’s Air 21), hindi pa naman yata public or something, I know there’s been some speculation in that regard, but the direction we're going is if we can acquire an existing franchise,” Pangilinan said.
Asked if it’s already Air 21, Pangilinan gave a short but perplexing response: “It’s one of them.”
Still refusing to directly answer if the Air21 buyout is already a ‘done deal,' the tactical business tycoon again gave a stirring response: “Syempre, all options are open!”