SBJ/December 12-18, 2011/Franchises

Hornets surpass 10K season-ticket goal

The NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets last week hit their season-ticket sales goal of 10,000, but the team still faces some business challenges as it positions itself to be sold in the wake of the league’s new labor deal.

“There are multiple groups interested” in the Hornets, Chairman Jac Sperling says.
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“We are not home yet, but things are lining up in the right direction,” said Hornets Chairman Jac Sperling, who was hired by NBA Commissioner David Stern last year to improve the team’s business operations and spearhead the sale of the franchise. “There are multiple groups interested.”

The Hornets announced Dec. 8 that they had passed the 10,000 mark for full-season tickets. The benchmark of 10,000 had been set to show potential buyers that there is sufficient local support for the franchise. New Orleans’ all-time high for season tickets sold is 10,400, coming in 2008-09.

The Hornets had 6,300 season-ticket holders last season.

The league’s new collective-bargaining agreement, which was expected to be formally approved last week, is helping to stoke the team-sale process, as well.

“Obviously a lot of [potential buyers] want to see what the CBA is,” Sperling said, declining to name the number of potential buyers. “A purchase could have happened without [a new CBA], but it helps give definition.”

The NBA bought the Hornets last December for more than $300 million from former owner George Shinn. Last season, the team posted an average attendance of 14,709 fans a game, fifth-lowest in the 30-team NBA.

The team is still looking to secure a long-term lease extension for state-owned New Orleans Arena. The Hornets’ lease runs through the 2013-14 season and comes with a provision that allows the club to relocate if average attendance drops below 14,735 over two years, provided that the team pays the state a $10 million fee.

In addition, the Hornets now have five top-level Crescent City partners, with each deal worth at least $1 million annually.

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