Posted by Sabrina B. @gametimegirl

On Monday, in his first news conference since it was announced he’s taking over the Hawks, Alex Meruelo was asked by an Atlanta reporter to reveal a secret about himself. He thought about it for a few moments, then answered:   “I love dessert.”

There’s a lot more to Meruelo than just food, although food is very important. His Downey-based Meruelo Group currently has financial interests in a number of entities, including restaurants, construction and real estate. This year, he purchased Spanish-language KWHY-TV in Los Angeles and the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno.

“I look for opportunities,” he told a news conference in Atlanta.

If the NBA’s Board of Governors approves him, Meruelo, 48, will become the league’s first Hispanic owner.

“It’s a privilege, and I’m honored,” he said. “It means a lot. Me being Hispanic is very touching. I just want to make sure I make them proud.”

Meruelo’s La Pizza Loca chain has more than 50 outlets in LA and Orange counties. He opened his first restaurant in Los Angeles in 1985 when he was 21. His company has since expanded to commercial and residential real estate and later construction.

Meruelo also has a controlling interest in Pacific Whey Café, which has three locations in Orange County.

Meruelo’s parents arrived in Miami from Cuba in 1961 and later settled in New York. When he was 3, they moved to Southern California. He attended Long Beach State.

He called Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno a “role model,” although he said they have never met.

“He’s the first (Latino) Major League Baseball owner, and he’s done a great job,” he said. “My hat’s off to Arte. I’ve never met him before, but I look forward to meeting him soon, and I can say he’s done a great job with the Angels. I’m very proud of him, and I only hope to do the same that he’s done.”

Meruelo said he has tried to buy ownership in NBA teams in the past but without success. His purchase of a majority stake in the Hawks comes with the league in the midst of a lockout that could end with the cancellation of next season.

Meruelo said he was advised by the NBA to refuse comment on the lockout or his plans for the franchise, at least until he has been approved by owners. But he said owning an NBA team has always been a dream and that he plans to work hard to bring a title to the city.

“I will not stop, never give up, trying to win a championship for this city, for the Hawk fans,” he said. “I can’t promise you a championship tomorrow, but I can promise I will never give up.”

He said he had no plans to move the Hawks.

Although he’ll remain primarily in Southern California, Meruelo said he plans to buy a home in the Atlanta area and called himself a “hands-on individual.” Asked how much time he plans to spend in the area, he said, “As far as time, as much time as needed. I’m committed to the city, I’m committing to winning and I’m committed to a championship team.”


Michael Martinez