Toshimitsu Kawachi, the bj-league commissioner, met with the Tokyo Apache’s potential new owners on Monday.
The group, which includes current team marketing executive Sean Kameoka and Japan-based American businessmen Dan Weiss and Todd Wiley, held talks for about an hour.
In a followup phone interview on Monday evening, Weiss said the meeting was productive and pleasant for both parties, though it’s unclear when a decision will be made by the team’s parent company, Evolution Capital Management, and the league office regarding a potential sale and/or if the Apache’s 2011-12 season can somehow still happen.
The latter decision is the more complex matter on the table, as the league has already said the Apache will suspend operations for 2011-12, but Weiss said his group wants to find a way to still stage games in the fall rather than waiting an entire year to return to action.
Evolution stated last week in a news release that a lack of sponsors sparked its decision to pull the plug on the 2011-12 season. The team’s possible sale could change the direction of the organization.
Meanwhile, another group, which includes former league executive Daijiro Kusakabe, is also in the mix to possibly take over the Apache.
With the annual draft slated for Thursday, Apache players (all free agents now) and staff are “in limbo,” Weiss said, so there’s a sense of urgency to get things done quickly. He added that he expects the league to finalize its decision within two weeks regarding the team’s immediate future.
Weiss, a former JBL player and NBA Japan director of business development and business operations, said he thinks the odds are stacked against the team re-entering the league for 2011-12, noting that the league already issued its proclamation last week that the Apache are out of the picture until 2012-13.
“To flip-flop would be difficult,” Weiss said, but acknowledged that his group wants to see the team play in the fall, if it secures ownership. The group, he said, “will do all they can to accomplish that, but it’s up in the air right now.”
Unlike the Oita HeatDevils and Takamatsu Five Arrows, who were on life support in past seasons but avoided suspending operations, the Apache are not the only team in town, Weiss said, which makes finding the right mix of sponsors and business partners a formidable challenge.
(A fan group, though, has formed to publicize its support of the Apache. Its website is keep-tokyoprobasket.com/pr/ And the group held its first meeting over the weekend.)
What remains unknown is if Evolution is more interested in selling the team or retaining ownership and then getting the team back in place for 2012-13.
This will be EVO’s decision “up to a point,” Weiss said, noting Evolution’s team title deed, its possible expiration and the legal contract it has with the league office are not things he knows about, i.e., the technical details of it all. “If they step down (meaning push the sale through), then it creates an opportunity.”
The plan is not for a “hostile takeover,” Weiss said.
Evolution’s asking price for a potential sale is not known. The global investment firm purchased the Apache last June, becoming the team’s fourth owner in as many years.
Monday’s talks did not produce any concrete evidence of a breakthrough for the Apache, who were 20-14 under ex-NBA bench boss Bob Hill last season, which Evolution opted to end early after the March 11 earthquake, during this crisis time. But Weiss left the meeting feeling that it was productive to a certain point, saying Kawachi was “very polite” and “very appreciative” that there’s potential interest in buying the team.