THE Illawarra Hawks NBL license could soon be up for grabs with current owner Simon Stratford reportedly hit with a show cause notice by the NBL earlier this month.
Both parties remain tight-lipped on the development, with the NBL issuing a blunt "no comment" when asked on Wednesday morning to confirm or deny such a notice had been issued.
Stratford did not return calls on Wednesday, but The Mercury understands the matter relates to a significant debt owed to the NBL. Should the league not receive an adequate response it could take back ownership of the club's license and offer it for sale to interested buyers.
There has been genuine, if tentative, interest in purchasing the club from multiple parties - with a group ownership model the likely pitch - but the debt remains the major sticking point.
Should the NBL call in the debt and assume ownership, it would clear the way for a new owner or ownership group to take control of the club ahead of next season.
Stratford's ownership has been on shaky ground since the end of last season when it emerged players and staff had not been paid their full entitlements - chiefly superannuation.
It attracted the attention of the NBL, ATO and the Players Association before eventually being resolved but it was one of a number of issues that saw former coach Rob Beveridge depart the club.
Stratford formerly held a minority share of the club but took full ownership in February 2018 after telecommunications entrepreneur James Spencely sold his 51 per cent stake.
Spencely purchased his majority stake in July 2014 after five years operating under a members ownership structure. The club was placed into voluntary administration at the end of the 2014-15 season, but returned the finals next campaign in Beveridge's first at the helm.
The ownership uncertainty comes amid a tough season on the floor for the Hawks, with rookie coach Matt Flinn dealt a tough draw and horror injury toll that sees them sitting at 5-18 with five games remaining.
They take on the Kings in Wollongong on Friday, with their Indigenous Round clash with New Zealand their final home outing of the year.