Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Coke admits talks with SMC for Powerade sale; Lassiter trade still pending

source: Reynaldo Belen | InterAKTV

While the Powerade Tigers still remain under the ownership and management of Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc., the company has met with San Miguel Corporation to discuss sale of the basketball franchise to the conglomerate.

In a statement released Tuesday, PBA commissioner Chito Salud said that CCBPI, in a letter to the league, wrote that SMC “confirmed its interest in maintaining and securing the right of first refusal to buy Powerade” even as “nothing has been finalized and no sale has been concluded.”

Last week, InterAKTV obtained a document showing that CCBPI offered the franchise for sale to SMC last November.

Reports of the sale have caused furor among fans and officials of other teams after Powerade submitted a proposal to the league to trade star rookie Marcio Lassiter to Petron, SMC’s flagship franchise, in exchange for Noy Baclao and Rey Guevarra.

The timing was curious because the Tigers were coming off a Cinderella run in the Philippine Cup finals helped in large part by the performance of Lassiter, who emerged as one of the league’s best players, finishing third in the tournament’s statistical points race. While Baclao and Guevarra were top picks in the 2010 draft, they have been second stringers in the powerhouse Petron lineup, leading to questions about the implication of the sale reports on the trade.

The PBA prohibits teams owned by the same company to trade with each other directly.

In the letter to the PBA, CCBPI said it “will follow the proper process should it decide to consummate the sale of its franchise, namely by first notifying and requesting approval for a sale from the PBA Board of Governors.”

But after CCBPI’s admission of talks between the company and SMC regarding the sale, PBA chairman Mamerto Mondragon, who represents Rain or Shine in the board, described the trade as inappropriate.

“Of course it’s not appropriate. Let’s just say hindi pa sila nagkakabilihan, pero meron nang negotiations na baka presyo na lang ang pinag-uusapan. Then hindi maganda na may trade na mangyayari between them,” said Mondragon.

Action deferred

Salud, meanwhile, decided to defer action on the Lassiter trade until after the board holds its special meeting to discuss issues surrounding Powerade on February 20. As commissioner, he has the power to veto or revise deals that he deems imbalanced.

The decision to hold the trade, according to Salud, will give members of the board “the opportunity to ask further clarificatory questions regarding the CCBPI response.”

The PBA board originally set a meeting last Friday to discuss the Powerade situation, but were unable to reach quorum. Representatives of Powerade as well as the three SMC teams — B-MEG, Barangay Ginebra, and Petron — were unable to show up for the meeting. Barako Bull’s board representative was also absent.

Baylon still governor, but alternate appointed

In its letter, CCBPI confirmed that JB Baylon remains Powerade’s representative to the PBA board. The company also announced the appointment of Ronald Asuncion as alternate governor.

Baylon, who was instrumental in putting the core of the Tigers squad together, has been reticent toward media over the past couple of weeks, since talks of the Powerade sale and the Lassiter trade erupted. Baylon is Director for Public Affairs and Communications of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation, the Philippine branch office of the Coca-Cola Company, and a separate entity from CCBPI.

Curiously, CCBPI’s letter to the PBA indicated that Asuncion, and not Baylon, will be representing Powerade in the February 20 meeting.