NBA to Purchase New Orleans Hornets After Chouest Decides Against Buying

The National Basketball Association said it would buy the New Orleans Hornets after owner George Shinn cited financial troubles and unsuccessful negotiations with minority owner Gary Chouest.

Shinn, 49, and the league reached an agreement that allows the NBA to run the team until a new owner can be found, Commissioner David Stern said today in a press release.

The transaction would make the Hornets the NBA’s first league-owned team. It’s subject to a vote by the NBA Board of Governors, which will most likely occur next week, the release said.

“I wanted to ensure that the team remained in New Orleans, if that was possible, and recognized that the league could provide the necessary funding while a new owner was sought in New Orleans and negotiations with the city and the state could continue,” Shinn said in the release.

Chouest, who owns 35 percent of the Hornets, originally planned to buy the team. Those negotiations have stalled for months, the Associated Press reported. It is unclear whether Chouest, whose business supplies vessels for the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico, remains interested the assuming a majority state, AP said.

“New Orleans owes a debt of gratitude to George for bringing NBA basketball back to the city,” Chouest said in the release. “I have greatly enjoyed the experience with the Hornets and, of course, will continue to support the team.”

Charlotte Birth

Shinn founded the Hornets in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1988 and moved them to New Orleans in 2002. The Hornets opened the 2010 season 8-0 and are currently 13-7, four games behind the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference’s Southwest Division. Through 10 home games, the Hornets are averaging 13,860 fans, the fourth-worst attendance in the NBA.

Jac Sperling, founder of Grit Rock Ventures LLC, an investment company based on the sports and entertainment businesses, will be the team’s chairman and governor. Sperling is also the vice chairman of Minnesota Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild.

The Hornets’ lease at New Orleans Arena runs through 2014, though the team could break it if average home attendance drops under 14,735 over a two-year period. Shinn had prostate cancer surgery last year and wants to sell the Hornets to focus on other endeavors, including charitable efforts to fight cancer, AP said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York enovywilliam@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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