Blackwater set to join PBA as 11th franchise

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Ever Bilena chairman Dioceldo Sy, a self-made successful businessman with a heart for sports, is taking the big leap to the PBA after winning championships in the PBL, WPBL and the PBA D-League.

Sy submitted a letter of intent to buy a new franchise in the major league last Friday. The application will be taken up at the PBA Board of Governors meeting on March 6 when Sy will celebrate his 56th birthday. PBA chairman Ramon Segismundo said to enter the league, a new franchise must receive at least eight out of 10 votes in the Board.

“It will be the best birthday gift ever if our application is accepted,” said Sy. “This is a dream come true for me, if ever. Our teams have won championships in several leagues, Blu Detergent and Shark Energy Drink in the PBL, Ever Bilena in the WPBL and Blackwater in the PBA D-League. Now, I feel it’s time to join the PBA. At first, I explored the possibility of co-branding and teaming up with an existing PBA franchise like Barako Bull. But eventually, I decided to go independent, to buy a new franchise.”

The price tag for a new franchise is P100 million. Sy said he will propose a payment scheme to the PBA Board over a three-year period. A down payment of P30 million is being considered with the balance to be paid in instalments in the next three years.

Last Thursday, Sy, his brother Silliman and business associate Wilbert Loa met with Segismundo, PBA commissioner Chito Salud, media bureau chief Willy Marcial and basketball operations director Rickie Santos at the Tao Yuan Restaurant in Robinson’s Magnolia to discuss Blackwater’s interest. Sy said the meeting went smoothly.

“I’m hoping we will be the 11th franchise,” said Sy. “I don’t know if it’s a done deal but we’ll know after the PBA board meeting. I’ve been thinking about making this move for a long time. Now, I think the time is right. I understand the PBA plans to start the next season with at least 12 teams.”

Sy said requesting for concessions will come later. “I’m sure we will discuss options on how we can bring in players for our team,” he said. “It’s possible to do an expansion draft where each existing team will protect nine or 10 players and leave the rest for the new franchise. Take, for instance, Barako, I understand the team has 23 or 25 players so from existing teams, we already can get a lot. There are also a lot of players in the PBA D-League who applied for the PBA draft but weren’t chosen so they’re all free agents eligible to be signed up. I could get the best of the PBA D-League and put up an All-Star team. Maybe, the PBA Board will consider elevating some of our Blackwater players from the PBA D-League without going through the draft like what Welcoat did when they joined. The first priority is to be accepted into the league.”

Sy said he will set a three-year timetable for his team to be a championship contender. “It will take at least three years to build up and once we’ve settled our financial obligations, we should be ready to go all out,” he said. “Blackwater will leave the PBA D-League and we’ll bring Leo Isaac back to the PBA as our coach. I’ll designate my brother Silliman to be our governor in the PBA Board with Wilbert as alternate governor. The brand we’ll use is Blackwater which we are now expanding from a fragrance to a bath soap to a skin care product and other male lines.”

Segismundo said Sy’s entry is a welcome development and a positive sign for the PBA’s future. “Blackwater, as a brand, is backed up by Ever Bilena, the prospective franchise owner,” he said. “Mr. Sy has been in basketball for 15 years. We want him to be one of the pillars of our basketball nation. We will support him as he goes through the PBA application and evaluation process.”

Segismundo said a 12th team is also being lined up and most likely, a 13th. He said there is no magic formula in terms of ideal membership so that it won’t matter if the league has an even or odd number of teams. “Each application is evaluated on its own merits – reputation, financial muscle, championship aspirations,” he explained. “It’s not a numbers game. We need quality teams. League expansion is here. The PBA will have a great future.”

Sy, a former PBL chairman, bankrolled the stints of the Philippine women’s basketball team in several international tournaments and has been known to support charitable causes. He recently donated a P1.8 Million payloader to the Tacloban city government in the wake of the Yolanda tragedy. Sy gave Asi Taulava his first break in Philippine basketball by signing him to play for Blu Detergent in the PBL in 1997 and was once close to managing Manny Pacquiao before he became a world champion. Sy played basketball for UNO high school in the Tiong Lian league and was a roving salesman before forming Ever Bilena in 1983 as a single proprietorship. From a single-line company selling nail polish, Ever Bilena has grown astronomically into a major player in the cosmetics industry with over 1,000 products in the market today. Sy has also branched out into several commercial ventures in food, health drinks, fragrances, soap and detergents.











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