Shinn Talks About Selling Hornets To NBA, Team's Future In New Orleans
George Shinn is scheduled to return to New Orleans today "for the first time since he transferred ownership" of the Hornets to the NBA in December, and ahead of the visit he chatted with the TIMES-PICAYUNE's Jimmy Smith about "why the expected sale to minority partner Gary Chouest fell through, why the team accumulated such long-term debt, and the future of the NBA in New Orleans." The following is a portion of the Q&A:
Q: For a long time it seemed that the sale to Gary Chouest was going to go through. Can you tell the fans what happened and why did the deal fall through?
Shinn: I can’t really respond to what was going on in Gary’s mind, because it wouldn’t be fair for me to do that. ... I suppose the timing was just not right for him. But the timing was right for me. I’m just trying to look forward to my future, doing things with my foundation. After going through this cancer scare, I just made the decision that this was something I had to do to help my kids get their life in order, put together a trust for them so they could get their lives going instead of all of us clinging to the team.
Q: Did you have offers from other suitors during that period? It has been reported that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison wanted to buy the team and potentially move it to the West Coast.
Shinn: Larry made a public statement that he had made an offer for $350 million. And that’s true. He did. I still have the offer signed, but I just couldn’t do it. I could not sell it to him. I could have gotten $50 million more for the team. But I just couldn’t do it. I knew his goal was one thing. He wants a team, but he wants it in California.
Q: As things were breaking down with Gary, did he articulate to you any reasons as to why he was changing his mind?
Shinn: The final deal I got with the NBA, Gary turned that offer down. I cannot even begin to say why. But I know there were a lot of things on his plate. It would be unfair for me to speculate. I’m grateful for Gary Chouest. If it hadn’t been for him, and him buying part of this team, I probably would not have had the money to move this team back.
Q: Do you think this team can survive here given the right set of economic circumstances?
Shinn: I believe with good marketing, New Orleans would support this team. You have to make some right decisions, get good partners and you could make this work. I firmly believe it can make it. I know there’ve been remarks about the size of the market, and after Katrina it has been damaged. But when we came back, the year we had our best record ever and won our division, it was great. It just proves it can work. It will work (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/10).