HoopsHype George Shinn rumors

February 7, 2011 Updates

When the NBA bought the teetering Hornets franchise from George Shinn late last year, Commissioner David Stern appointed Sperling the team's acting chairman. Minutes into the first formal meeting between Sperling and Weber, the Hornets president knew the NBA had chosen wisely. "It was his approach that impressed me the most," Weber said. "He's very engaging, very approachable. We talked about our families, his background, my background. It didn't take long before my intuition told me this guy not only gets it, but he really cares." Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Sperling was raised in the Crescent City. His dad owned a lumber yard and his mom worked there in the office. As a youngster, his family lived first in the city's Broadmoor section, then near Tulane University and finally in Mid-City, near the business district. His sister, Gay, still lives in New Orleans, as do most of his childhood friends. "It's a unique city in that most of the people who grow up there still live there," Sperling said. "I'm one of the few who moved away. It has been great seeing people I haven't seen in 40 years. That's pretty cool. ... This has been a chance for me to renew some of my relationships." Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Sperling's impact is away from the hard court. Stern has asked a lot of Sperling. He wants the Hornets' season ticket base to swell, and he wants Sperling to broaden the corporate sponsorship base. Much of that has to happen before any substantive talks can take place with state and local governments for additional support. All this is aimed at making the franchise attractive to a buyer, preferably one who would keep the team in New Orleans. "He's done it all -- operations, finance, investment banking and sales," Stern said. "I could have done 100 Google searches and all would have yielded him as the right person for the job." Minneapolis Star-Tribune

January 7, 2011 Updates

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison confirmed this week he tried to buy the New Orleans Hornets from outgoing owner George Shinn, but was rebuffed. One league source said Shinn turned down the offer because he thought Ellison intended to move the franchise to San Jose, Calif., and instead wanted to find a buyer committed to keeping it in New Orleans. The source said Shinn tried to sell the Hornets to minority owner Gary Chouset for less than Ellison’s offer before agreeing to sell the franchise to the NBA for $300 million. Yahoo! Sports first reported on Dec. 3 that Ellison – whose bid to buy the Golden State Warriors also failed – had conversations with the Hornets and was interested in moving a team to San Jose. Yahoo! Sports

Forbes reported this week that the Warriors could stand to make $100 million to $150 million if another team moved to San Jose, but a league source disputed that figure. Relocation fees are shared equally among all of the league’s franchises unless the board of governors voted to make a special exception and awarded the Warriors a larger share. The Warriors are expected to eventually seek a move to San Francisco, a franchise source said, and would likely fight another franchise’s attempt to move into the market. Yahoo! Sports

December 18, 2010 Updates

The Hornets won’t blame their inconsistency on their uncertain ownership situation. The NBA just purchased the franchise from outgoing owner George Shinn in hopes of finding a local ownership group in New Orleans. If anything, the story has been a welcome distraction for the Hornets because it’s overshadowed their struggles. “It’s not like they started shipping guys out of here,” Paul said. “It still says ‘New Orleans’ on the front of our uniforms, not ‘NBA.’ I haven’t noticed a change. When we are out here practicing and things like that, that’s the last thing on our minds.” Yahoo! Sports

December 11, 2010 Updates

Chouest could eventually try to buy back a slight majority share of the team if he can find other investors to purchase the remaining percentage, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Chouest was close to completing a deal to take control of the franchise from outgoing owner George Shinn in the spring before negotiations broke down. Though finances obviously played a role in the sale not being completed, league sources also said Chouest, who is extremely private, has been hesitant to increase his public profile. The big question now is whether it will be worth buying the Hornets with a lockout expected after the season. Also, is there anyone with Louisiana ties interested in joining forces with Chouest? Yahoo! Sports

December 10, 2010 Updates

What's more, there isn't an available market that makes relocation sense, I'm informed. Seattle would be the clear-cut favorite, says a source, but the Sonics' old home (Key Arena) still needs a major facelift to meet NBA high-tech design or another space needs to be carved out in a hurry. Thirdly, the 29 owners who paid George Shinn $300 million and must now subsidize the Hornets at $45-to-50 million in perpetuity figure to be reluctant to do so beyond next season. In fact, logic dictates they're probably leaning toward ending the funding after this one, depending on how negotiations turn out regarding a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. New York Post

Logically, nobody has more educated inside knowledge than Stern about what's likely to happen in a stare down with the Players' Association. The league might not know for sure who will crack on what issues, but it's certainly in the best position to know. "Don't overlook the positive impact of a new CBA," a former team official stresses. "Lockout or no lockout, if the league gets a good portion of what it demands teams will be worth a great deal more afterward." New York Post

December 9, 2010 Updates

Based on his dealings and conversations with New Orleans Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest, Coach Monty Williams said Wednesday night he could envision a scenario in which Chouest returns to purchase the team. 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 $300 million. Chouest has a 35 percent stake in the team. “From his words, he’s not out of the picture; I will say that,” Williams said. “If there’s an opportunity for him to get back into it, I think he would jump on it in a minute.” New Orleans Times-Picayune

December 8, 2010 Updates

George Shinn has been an exceptional owner for the franchise throughout the 22 years the Hornets have been in existence, and Gary Chouest has been extremely supportive as minority owner over the last few seasons. We plan to continue to build upon the culture they created. Our team will remain focused on two main goals: * We will continue to build a legacy in the local community by maintaining a championship-caliber team on the court and through our numerous community initiatives off the court, * We will continue to develop a path and plan for a local owner to bring an NBA Championship to New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. NBA.com

We've obtained audited financial data for David Stern's new prize, the New Orleans Hornets. The statements cover 2008 and 2009, and among other things they paint a picture of a team already in hock to the NBA. Two things jump out, at least to this layman's eyes: the team's operating income, which in 2008 was a $6.4 million loss and in 2009 was a $5.9 million gain (slide 10), though that latter figures includes $3.4 million in revenue assistance from the NBA (slide 27); and the team's net cash in operating activities, which represents the "measurement of money [owner George Shinn] is being asked to take out of his pocket to keep operations going," according to sports economist Andrew Zimbalist. In 2008, that amount was $7.4 million; in 2009, $1.4 million (slide 12). Zimbalist points out that "things got much more problematic for the franchise" the following year. Deadspin.com

Hornets officials were unavailable for comment on the posted documents, and NBA officials did not return an email seeking comment. The Times-Picayune could not reach officials with KPMG, the accounting firm listed on the documents on the website. The NBA on Monday named New Orleans native Jac Sperling as the team’s chairman and governor and gave him the task of finding a buyer for the franchise, which spent two years in Oklahoma City following Hurricane Katrina. He met with New Orleans media on Tuesday but hours before the audit was posted online. New Orleans Times-Picayune

A bright spot for the next owner is that the audit revealed that the team’s bottom line was hugely affected by the its performance, as the club was enriched one year following the 2007-08 division championship season. Total home-game ticket revenues in 2009, including playoffs, was $45.2 million, compared to $36 million the year before. The audit did raise questions about the ability of the partnership, including at least three separate entities owned by Shinn, totaling 65 percent, and one by Gary Chouest (Slam Dunk LLC) totaling 35 percent, to continue operating because of continued financial losses. New Orleans Times-Picayune

The audit also reveals that, as has been previously reported, the State of Louisiana provided no financial assistance to the team in 2009 because the Hornets had reached required attendance benchmarks. The state did pay the Hornets $6.369 million in 2008. Broadcasting and cable rights revenue from the team’s television and radio rights brought in $38.4 million in 2008 and $41.2 million in 2009, the audit said. Of that total, the Cox Sports Television agreement brought the Hornets $9 million in 2009 and $8.3 million in 2008. New Orleans Times-Picayune

NBA Commissioner David Stern says the league is proceeding with its plan to buy the New Orleans Hornets from majority owner George Shinn and minority owner Gary Chouest. Stern confirms that the league has recruited New Orleans native Jac Sperling to be the NBA's administrator of the team. Sperling is a sports attorney and the vice chairman of the NHL's Minnesota Wild. FanHouse

The man picked by the NBA to oversee the Hornets after the league's impending takeover of the franchise said Tuesday that his assignment is to make the club more attractive to a buyer who would keep the team in New Orleans. Jac Sperling traveled to New Orleans to begin his role as the NBA's administrator for what will be the first team owned by the league after the NBA board of governors' anticipated approval of the purchase in the coming weeks. ESPN.com

Sperling, a sports attorney who is also vice chairman of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, was born and raised in New Orleans. He was appointed by NBA Commissioner David Stern. "I grew up here. [Stern] asked me to help," Sperling said. "Read into that what you want, but I think the commissioner, he's been very positive about this city going back to when the team was awarded in 2002, [then moving the team back from Oklahoma City] after Katrina ... and also the awarding of the 2008 All-Star game. "We're in a difficult spot, yes, but I think his selection of me is a further indication of what is in his mind. He wants to try to make this asset more attractive so perhaps a local buyer will step up." ESPN.com

There are any number of ways to express how unlikely we are to land a major pro sports team for the Sprint Center, but two stand out. The NBA will have to approve a relocation and team up with a new owner to swipe a team from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. More importantly, there is no apparent potential owner to make it work. This week, sources in or close to four of the wealthiest families in Kansas City told me for this column they have no interest. Neither fact eliminates us. But it does mean we’re a long way from season-ticket deposits. Also, it means that AEG is on the clock to work the connections we heard so much about when voters approved funding for the $276 million Sprint Center. Kansas City Star

December 7, 2010 Updates

Truth be told, NBA commissioner David Stern told Shinn to get his fanny back to New Orleans, because Shinn wanted to relocate to Oklahoma City and never look back. He was too poor to be an NBA owner, and nickel-and-dimed his franchises to mediocrity. His sexual assault civil trial in Charlotte turned one of the best, most supportive expansion cities ever into a dispassionate fandom that would never believe in the NBA again. Yahoo! Sports

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