IT looks like Barako Bull is on its way out of the PBA by next season.
Sources told Spin.ph the team will not only carry a new brand name in the coming PBA Commissioner's Cup, but the ownership of the controversial franchise is also bound to change hands at the end of the current campaign.
Among the potential buyers, sources added, is longtime PBA applicant Phoenix Petroleum, which is now on the negotiating table with Barako officials for a possible franchise sale.
The Filipino-owned oil company ditched its bid to join the PBA after failing to secure a majority vote from the then 10-man PBA board after reaching a deal on a sale with Barako’s former lone owner George Chua in 2011.
San Miguel Corp.'s decision to assign the old SMC franchise to sister company Petron has since slammed the door on Phoenix's bid to join the pro league.
However, the SMC flagship franchise has since reverted to San Miguel, leaving the door open for Phoenix.
Further fanning talk of Phoenix's interest in joining the PBA was the Mindanao-based oil company's decision to enter the D-League, where it has forged a school tie-up with reigning UAAP champion Far Eastern University.
Asked about the change of heart, Phoenix Petroleum vice-president for external affairs Raymond Zorilla bared that a study revealed that the PBA remains one of the most effective avenues in marketing the company and its products.
“Sabi nga natin, the professional league is still one of the most effective marketing tools. At the same time, it is like following also your love and passion for basketball,” said Zorilla.
Zorilla said the company hasn't really abandoned its bid to join the PBA.
“It (interest to join the PBA) remains. Last 2014, we just didn’t want to pursue it muna kasi plotted na yung aming programs noon, eh last year, na-i-plot na namin 'yung PBA D-League,” he said.
“So we’re going to the basketball mix again. 'Yun lang naman 'yun,” he added.
Zorilla, a sports enthusiast, admitted the company's interest to join the PBA, either as an expansion or franchise buyer.
“If the opportunity arises, why not? Unlike last year, wala talaga kaming basketball last year eh,” he insisted. “Yes we have already prepared a budget for that (in case sasali na kami sa PBA).”
Pressed to comment on the reported negotiations between Phoenix and Barako, lawyer executive was non-committal.
“I am not privy to it. I have no knowledge on that. Basta D-League muna tayo,” he said with a smile.
“(Yung budget naman for PBA) nakalaan naman 'yun eh. It’s always ready. We put up a budget we can use either as a marketing expense or an asset acquisition, we have aligned it na,” he said.
Before hanging up, Zorilla aired the hope that Petron will no longer stage a comeback in the PBA, so there will be no direct hindrance to Phoenix's jump to the big league.
“Sana. Kasi that was the reason before (why we weren’t able to join the PBA in 2011), kasi may rule na non-competitor. So hopefully, we’re keeping our fingers crossed, that the opportunity comes.
"Kasi sayang din naman, we would want to make the best out of it,” he added.
Listen to full interview with Zorilla: