SBD/Issue 62/Franchises

Hornets Coach Says Chouest Is Not Out Of The Picture To Buy Team

Monty Williams Gets Impressions That Gary
Chouest Could Still Be Interested In Hornets

Hornets coach Monty Williams last night said that "based on his dealings and conversations" with former Minority Owner Gary Chouest, he "could envision a scenario in which Chouest returns to purchase the team," according to Jennifer Armstrong of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Chouest "reached an impasse in negotiations with George Shinn to buy Shinn's remaining interest in the franchise, and now the two are in the process of selling their interests to the NBA for a reported" $300M. Williams said that Chouest "has spoken to him about the situation throughout the process." Williams: "From his words, he's not out of the picture; I will say that. If there's an opportunity for him to get back into it, I think he would jump on it in a minute. ... From his standpoint, having talked to him, he's tried to do everything he could to keep this team here. He's been really forthright with me explaining his position." NBA Commissioner David Stern said that "nothing precludes Chouest from stepping back in as a potential owner." Armstrong reports another potential local investor is New Orleans-based attorney Morris Bart, who said that he is "interested in purchasing a 10 percent share of the team if the NBA can find a majority investor." The NBA "plans to seek local ownership with hopes of keeping the Hornets in New Orleans, but it's possible the league might not aggressively pursue new ownership until it is able to reach a new" CBA (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 12/9). In New Orleans, John Reid noted Bart "has been a corporate partner with the franchise for the past five seasons and said he wants to help to keep the team in New Orleans" (, 12/8).

LAGGING SUPPORT: In New Orleans, Nakia Hogan notes the Hornets beat the Pistons last night in front of an announced crowd of 10,823 at New Orleans Arena, the "smallest crowd of the season at the Arena." Many of the fans "had shown up wondering what happens next" for the team. The Hornets "can opt out of their lease at the Arena, which runs through 2014, if they fail to average 14,735 fans per game through Jan. 31, with a penalty" of $10M. The team "would have to notify the state of their intentions by March 31, 2011, if the attendance benchmarks aren't achieved." The Hornets were averaging 13,860 fans per game this season prior to last night's game (10 games), and they have 13 more home dates before the Jan. 31 deadline. The club has only "sold out one game -- against the Miami Heat -- at the Arena this season" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 12/9). Hornets F David West said, "We're going to stick to what we're doing. Approach this thing as professionals understanding there is a change somewhere in the works." West "wouldn't call the news a distraction," but he said it would be "naive to assume we're not aware of what's going on" (, 12/8).

MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME: In Louisville, Klepal & Green in a front-page story report Louisville Metro Council members "have been funding a behind-the-scenes push to lure" an NBA team to the city, "spending $60,000 to contract with attorney J. Bruce Miller to approach teams and potential investors." Miller, "who has been Louisville's point person in four previously unsuccessfully attempts to lure NBA teams," said that his work "started out as a type of feasibility study, but turned 'pretty hot' in October." Miller yesterday said that he "has a majority investor interested in buying a franchise and moving the team here." He added that 15 to 25 potential minority investors "are also interested, but he wouldn't name any of them." Miller "wouldn't say where the potential investor is from, or even if he resides outside of the country." Meanwhile, Univ. of Louisville AD Tom Jurich said that the school is "open to possibly sharing the KFC Yum! Center with an NBA team" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 12/9).

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