HoopsHype Tom Benson rumors

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May 20, 2012 Updates

Benson, who previously held the title of Saints owner and president, will serve as owner and chairman of the board. His granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, who has served as owner and executive vice president of the Saints since 2005, will now serve as vice-chairwoman of the board. LeBlanc's expanded role will include enhanced management responsibilities within Zelia LLC, which includes properties such as Benson Tower and Champions Square as well as various interests in the automotive, real estate and banking sectors and multimedia platforms, including Fox affiliate WVUE. "We've got a good team going, we really do," said Benson, who was surrounded as usual by his core management team of LeBlanc, Lauscha and Loomis as he sat down in his office Friday to discuss the new roles. New Orleans Times-Picayune

Tom Benson's business portfolio is bursting at the seams these days. He has expanded into television, film, real estate and now NBA basketball in the past four years. New Orleans Times-Picayune

Benson could not expand on his plans for the Hornets management structure, because he has not officially taken ownership of the team. But it's clear that (Dennis) Lauscha and Mickey Loomis, the Saints' executive vice president and general manager, will have major roles with the Hornets. Loomis will likely oversee basketball operations, with the Hornets' -general manager reporting to him. New Orleans Times-Picayune

May 15, 2012 Updates

The New Orleans Hornets will continue receiving a tax break that saves the NBA team $37 million over 10 years. The Senate sent the tax break bill to the governor's desk Monday with a 28-7 vote. The measure, supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal, is part of the state's deal to the keep the Hornets in Louisiana and a piece of the agreement with new team owner Tom Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints. Daily Comet

April 22, 2012 Updates

Amid the pomp and circumstance of Tom Benson's purchase of the New Orleans Hornets, one question remained unanswered. Where was Rita? Rita Benson LeBlanc, Saints owner and executive vice president, was nowhere to be found throughout the festivities. She wasn't at the news conference at NBA headquarters in New York to announce the sale. She was the lone Saints executive not in attendance at the Hornets' 85-73 win against Memphis last Sunday night. And she was conspicuously absent from the Saints' entourage at the official introductory news conference at New Orleans Arena last Monday. New Orleans Times-Picayune

The Saints declined to address LeBlanc's status or whereabouts, citing a policy regarding personnel matters. Multiple sources, however, say LeBlanc is serving some form of unofficial paid administrative leave, imposed by Benson. As the executive in charge of the club's sales, marketing and community affairs, LeBlanc's absence at major business events has raised eyebrows around town and in the pro sports industry. Word of her absence has spread in local business circles and reached Baton Rouge, where it's been the topic of discussion among state legislators. New Orleans Times-Picayune

Benson, according to sources, reached a breaking point near the end of the 2011 season and felt it was necessary to deliver a wake-up call to his 35-year-old granddaughter. No single incident led to the action, they said. Instead, Benson saw it as a pattern of behavior that needed to be corrected. LeBlanc's reported fall from grace raises questions about the future of the city's two major sports clubs. Benson will turn 85 in July. While he shows no signs of slowing down, he's said he'd eventually like to cede control to someone in the family. New Orleans Times-Picayune

April 17, 2012 Updates

With new Hornets owner Tom Benson saying he might rename the team, there’s been more speculation about whether the Bobcats would be interested in acquiring the Hornets nickname. Bobcats management can’t comment on that. But sources familiar with NBA procedure say it would take a minimum of two years from the time a team requested a name change until there actually was a change. That’s in part about giving uniform-supplier Adidas time to adjust to new logos and looks. Charlotte Observer

April 16, 2012 Updates

Arash Markazi: The @NBA officially announced that New Orleans will host the 2014 NBA All-Star Game. Twitter

When NBA Commissioner David Stern introduces New Orleans Hornets owner Tom Benson at a 2 p.m. press conference day, Stern will also announce that the league has awarded the 2014 All-Star Game to the city, a source confirmed Monday morning. New Orleans Times-Picayune

The NBA is awarding New Orleans the 2014 All-Star game, now that Tom Benson has agreed to buy the Hornets and sign a lease extension at New Orleans Arena, a person familiar with the decision said. ESPN.com

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press on Monday because an announcement by NBA Commissioner David Stern was scheduled for the afternoon. Stern had already pledged that New Orleans would get an All-Star game once a new owner and lease extension were in place, and because of potential conflicts with Mardi Gras, awarding the game in 2014 made the most sense, the person who spoke to the AP said. ESPN.com

The 2013 game will be played in Houston, and Mardi Gras falls on March 4 in 2014, well after the usual mid-February date for NBA All-Star weekend. Mardi Gras falls in mid-February in 2015 and 2016, so if the NBA had given the 2014 event to New York, as some predicted, it would not make sense to hold the game in New Orleans again until 2017. By then, Benson would be 89 years old. Stern was in New Orleans on Monday to introduce the New Orleans Saints owner as the new Hornets owner. The two announced an agreement Friday for Benson to take over the Hornets, who have often been on shaky ground since arriving in the Big Easy in 2002. ESPN.com

The New Orleans Hornets announced Sunday night that new owner Tom Benson will be formally introduced on Monday afternoon in a news conference at New Orleans Arena. NBA Commissioner David Stern is expected to attend, along with Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Benson purchased the Hornets for $338 million, assuring the franchise's long-term future in New Orleans. Benson attended the Hornets’ game Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies with his wife, Gayle. New Orleans Times-Picayune

April 15, 2012 Updates

So what are the goals of the NBA’s newest owner? What did you expect. “To win championships,’’ said Benson. “To put sellout crowds of 19,000 in the arena. To make basketball fans out of some of the 70,200 Saints season-ticket holders. We’ve got a great opportunity. New Orleans showed what a great small-market city it is when it comes to sports. Now we’ve got to keep proving it. Just watch. The success of our football team will help our basketball team build corporate sponsorships. Sky’s the limit. I’m in. Big-time.’’ New Orleans Times-Picayune

Suddenly, as fate decreed, Tom Benson saw his basketball roots blossom. On Friday, he listened to NBA Commissioner David Stern call him “the perfect owner’’ for a basketball team “in one of the country’s treasured cities, whose commitment to New Orleans is unrivaled.’’ “I got involved a month ago,’’ said Benson, “and let me tell you, it has been some frantic ride. I talked to my wife, I talked to the archbishop, I talked to the governor. Everyone was going crazy. When I was on the phone with Governor Jindal, telling him what I was going to do, I thought he was coming through the phone to kiss me.’’ New Orleans Times-Picayune

You listen to Benson talk about Stern, and you realize why the two are some sort of kindred spirits. One reason is there’s a lot of “commissioner’’ in Benson. He’s not exactly a “committee’’ guy. He likes calling the shots, making the big decisions as a committee of one. While Stern was giving his blessing to Benson last week in New York, he was also telling the owners of the Sacramento Kings that the franchise would not be guaranteed a home in Sacramento after 2014 if they did not get their act together in building a new arena. New Orleans Times-Picayune

April 14, 2012 Updates

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