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Phoenix joins PBA after sale of Barako franchise gets approval

A Christmas Day showdown with GlobalPort turned out to be Barako Bull's swan song in the PBA. PBA (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--A huge franchise shakeup took place on Wednesday when the PBA Board of Governors approved the sale of the Barako Bull roster to Phoenix Petroleum.

In a special meeting called by no less than Barako governor Manny Mendoza, the PBA board unanimously approved the sale, which effectively gave Phoenix the go-signal to join the league as early as the Commissioner's Cup.

“The Board unanimously agreed that Phoenix Petroleum is financially capable of maintaining a team in the PBA. So hindi naging mahirap yung desisyon,” PBA chairman and acting president Robert Non said after the special meeting.

He added, "All the contracts present sa [Barako Bull] will be absorbed by the new owner."

The franchise transfer will be formalized on Jan. 28 as representatives from Phoenix are expected to grace the board's regular meeting.

The said development ended the participation of the Lina Group of Companies in the PBA.

The Lina Group came to the league in 2002 after buying the franchise previously owned by Lucio Tan's Tanduay team. The said franchise, which took the names FedEx, Air21, Burger King, and Barako Bull, was the one it sold to Phoenix.

The Lina Group then got a second franchise after getting a majority share of Photokina, effectively taking over the old Barako Bull club, which was eventually renamed Shopinas and later Air21.

However, even before the Lina Group sold its Shopinas/Air21 club to NLEX in 2014, the group has been in scrutiny by fans and basketball analysts after Barako Bull has been involved in various trades involving its key players in exchange for players from San Miguel, Ginebra, and Star who were struggling, leading to accusations about Barako being a "farm team" of the San Miguel umbrella.

Phoenix tried to join the league in 2011, but its membership application got vetoed after San Miguel renamed its club to Petron, a direct competitor. The Beermen would revert themselves to their old moniker, giving Phoenix another shot at joining the league.

Curiously, it was the old Barako franchise that Phoenix attempted to purchase that time.

Phoenix has already locked in its participation in the PBA D-League, bringing in most of the players from reigning UAAP champion FEU.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno