SBD/Issue 175/Sports Industrialists

Little Known About Potential Hornets Owner Gary Chouest

Chouest's Wealth Could
Give Hornets Stability

Hornets Minority Owner GARY CHOUEST, who is negotiating to buy GEORGE SHINN's share of the team, "remains a mysterious owner-in-waiting," according to a profile by Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Chouest's "financial wherewithal is estimated to be in the billions, a bank account that would ensure the franchise's long-term stability in Chouest's hometown region while, for the first time in team history, create limitless financial possibilities in the area of player and coaching acquisitions." Chouest, who paid $62M in '07 for his 25% stake in the Hornets, "remains the richest man in Louisiana that nobody knows," as he has "steadfastly ignored all requests for comments or interviews." But those who know Chouest indicated that he is a "quiet, philanthropic individual with an unabated love for the game of basketball -- a generous soul who gives of himself and his resources to enrich the lives of friends, employees and acquaintances." Smith noted Chouest serves as President & CEO of Edison Chouest Offshore, a "worldwide leader in the marine transportation industry."  The fact that Chouest "took time away from his company to interview prospective Hornets coaches" was "something that impressed coaching candidate MIKE FRATELLO." Fratello said Chouest was "on top" of the coaching search. Fratello: "I think he has a pretty good feel for the game as far as personnel. He's a guy who has much more of an interest in the game than some others who might be going into it for simply the business standpoint of it." Fratello added Chouest is a "very, very pleasant person." Fratello: "He's not a guy who's trying to dominate the conversation. ... I think he'll be a great owner." Bollinger Shipyards Owner BOYSIE BOLLINGER said, "I think what's unique about him is I don't think he's doing this for the ego, where many, many other people do it for the ego. I think he's doing it because he actually enjoys basketball" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/23).

DEEPLY INVOLVED IN GULF: The TIMES-PICAYUNE's Smith in a front-page piece noted Edison Chouest Offshore "has been deeply involved in many facets" of the response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. ECO spokesperson Lonnie Thibodeaux said BP "is a loyal and long-standing customer of Edison Chouest so we've been [in] support of that operation ever since" the night of the explosion. He added he is "not at liberty to give any details about what specific Chouest assets are involved or precisely what they are doing" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/23).

WHAT'S THE BUZZ? In New Orleans, John DeShazier wrote the delay in Shinn's sale of the Hornets to Chouest "has become a nuisance, bordering on embarrassing for the perception it gives that New Orleans’ NBA franchise can’t conduct" the business of filling the team's coaching vacancy. It appears that Shinn "isn't ready to sell, or may no longer even want to." Shinn and Chouest "don’t owe us an explanation as to why the deal hasn’t been done." But they should know that by "saying nothing, we’re left to our own devices, allowed to form our own opinions and to give thought to rumors that aren’t all flattering" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/22).

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