SBD/January 7, 2011/Franchises

NBA Not Ready To Begin Hornets Talks With New Orleans Groups

Gary Chouest still interested in
buying Hornets from the NBA
New Orleans attorney Morris Bart said that Hornets Chair Jac Sperling told him Wednesday night that the NBA is "not ready to begin negotiations with any local ownership group" regarding a sale of the league-owned franchise, according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Bart said, "He repeated to me that he’s working on trying to improve attendance and make the team more attractive overall for a local buyer. It really seems truthful, I tend to believe him. They are trying to improve the finances of the team to sell it to a local buyer." Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's Press Secretary Kyle Plotkin said that the state and the Hornets "continue to have discussions" about the team's lease. Bart, who has expressed interest in purchasing a minority share of the Hornets and has formed a group of minority investors, indicated that former Minority Owner Gary Chouest "remains interested in buying a majority share." He stressed, however, that it "has to be at the right price" for Chouest, who late last year withdrew his bid to acquire complete control of the franchise. Bart: "I think we have a group now that has the financial firepower to negotiate with the NBA to buy the team at whatever is the right price. Of course, we have competition out of state, Larry Ellison is actively trying to get the team. I know he was actively trying to buy it earlier" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/7).

TRYING TO MAKE IT WORK: In L.A., Jim Peltz notes NBA Commissioner David Stern's "stated goal is to stabilize the Hornets and then find new owners" to keep the team in New Orleans, but the "question is whether the NBA needs" the city. Hornets President Hugh Weber said, "Right now we are pedal down to make it work." Since the NBA bought the team last month, "no outside offers to buy the Hornets have surfaced publicly." However, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison on Wednesday claimed that he "offered $350 million to buy the team but was outbid by the NBA." New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu said, "I feel very comfortable that the NBA is committed to keeping a team in New Orleans. There's always a chance that you can lose the team, so I think people can't take it for granted" (L.A. TIMES, 1/7).

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