George Shinn Rumors
Silas coached the Hornets until 2003, piloting the franchise through its move to New Orleans. He was fired after leading the team to a strong 47-35 record, but then falling to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. Silas laughed when he recalled how he found out about the firing. Reporters had arrived at his door to ask about it, and Silas simply walked next door to team owner George Shinn’s house. “You don’t want to kick my ass, do you?” Shinn asked, according to Silas. “I grabbed him and said, ‘George, you gave me nothing but a great career. I love you man.’ We became buddies after that, but he thought we were going to go at it.”
George Shinn, the former owner of the Charlotte, and New Orleans, Hornets, calls Tuesday from Nashville. He lives outside Nashville and operates his charitable Trulight Foundation there. His message is clear. When New Orleans’ NBA franchise relinquishes the Hornets’ name, Bobcats’ owner Michael Jordan should pounce on it. Shinn, 71, backs up a little and says he isn’t telling Jordan what to do. “If Michael sees fit, I’d like to help,” Shinn says. He says the Hornets nickname would be great for Jordan, Jordan’s team and the community. “It was never my name,” says Shinn. “It belonged to Charlotte.”
According to his employees, Jordan has been sticking to his new plan, stepping away from the draft board and into the boardroom. Jordan, for his part, declined to be interviewed for this story, citing a summer schedule packed with “face of the city” obligations before and during the Democratic National Convention, held at the Bobcats’ arena. That’s just one part of finally taking on the burden of repairing bridges with the city long ago napalmed by Bob Johnson, who laid off his community relations staff to save cash, and former Hornets owner George Shinn, who relocated the team to New Orleans while keeping his middle finger fully extended.
The league chose Benson, who will be purchasing the team by himself, over a group of investors including businessman Raj Bhathal and former NBA head coach and general manager Mike Dunleavy, and former minority owner Gary Chouest, who had tried unsuccessfully to buy the team from majority owner George Shinn three years ago. The Bhathal group also included Larry Benson, Tom Benson’s younger brother.
Sources said the NBA, which acquired the Hornets in December 2010 from founding owner George Shinn to prevent Shinn from selling to an investor who planned to move the franchise out of New Orleans, confirmed the purchase prices. The league paid about $318 million for the Hornets, then contributed additional capital into the last 16 months, reportedly in the neighborhood of $18 million.
Sources close to Bhathal’s group said Thursday that it has been Bhathal’s focus from the beginning to keep the team in New Orleans and that Bhathal has the financial wherewithal to consummate a purchase. Chouest, the source said, did not want to be a majority owner of the Hornets, but wanted to be involved on a basis similar to his previous minority ownership with founding owner George Shinn. Chouest initially purchased a 25 percent stake in the Hornets and absorbed an additional 10 percent through a series of financial contributions over the years.
Paul consistently expressed a desire to be a Hornet, saying things like, “Right now my position is to win a championship right here in New Orleans.” That became untenable, though, when the team’s financial prospects were so shaky that the NBA had to take over the team when no local owner stepped in to buy it from George Shinn. How could Paul commit to being an employee when no one committed to being the boss? “Not having an owner played a major part in it,” said C.J. Paul, Chris’ brother. “Anything could happen.”
The authors of the letter were Paul Allen of Portland, Herb Simon on Indiana, Bob Johnson of Charlotte, George Shinn of New Orleans, Larry Miller of Utah, Michael Heisley of Memphis, Glen Taylor of Minnesota and Herb Kohl of Milwaukee. Johnson and Shinn have since sold their teams and Miller has passed away, giving way to his son, Greg. But the situations in those markets haven’t changed. In essence, that letter is the root of the current lockout. And, it is turning out, perhaps a core reason the owners can’t make a deal with the players after more than two years of negotiations.
Since the CBA debate is first and foremost about the money, the financial reasons for eliminating the worst-performing teams couldn’t be more compelling. The leader in the clubhouse is New Orleans, and there simply is no close second. The team was taken over by the other 29 owners last December with $90 million from league reserves, a $70 million loan from outgoing owner George Shinn and undisclosed additional debt, according to the Sports Business Journal. (At 3 percent interest and a two-year repayment schedule, that means the league still owes Shinn about $50 million.) Even before the league takeover, the Hornets were a bottomless pit of misallocated resources. According to the ’09 statements, the Hornets’ ownership group was carrying $111 million in long-term debt, including $73.8 million borrowed from the league credit facility. Of the latter amount, $22.7 million is due in June 2013 — although previous maturity dates were renegotiated and extended because, obviously, Shinn and his partners were tapped out.
The Hornets helped rebuild homes, playgrounds and basketball courts, and Shinn’s foundation aided the homeless with things like new shoes during the holidays. “When we were in Oklahoma City, we struggled with the decision to come back and what we did, we prayed about it,” Shinn said. “I felt like it was the right thing to do. New Orleans was suffering. They went through the storm. People were homeless. People were leaving. It was all kinds of negative stuff and it was heavy on my heart. “We knew we were taking a (financial) risk, but to me it was worth it.”
George Shinn said he sold the Hornets for about $50 million less than he could have because he wants the club to remain in New Orleans, and he would be willing to buy back in as a minority investor should a viable Louisiana ownership group come together. Shinn, who has rarely been to New Orleans since selling the club to the NBA in early December, returned Monday to present $500,000 from his foundation to a Salvation Army program aimed at helping the working poor find stable housing. Afterward, Shinn said he plans to donate much of his wealth to charity, and for the same reason, rejected a $350 million offer from Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison. “He sent me an offer in writing and I just couldn’t find it in my heart to do it,” Shinn said, adding that he worried Ellison would move the club to the West Coast.
Former New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn made a $500,000 contribution on behalf of the George Shinn Foundation to The Salvation Army today in a ceremony featuring Shinn, New Orleans City Council President Arnie Fielkow, Hornets President Hugh Weber and Captain Ethan Frizzell from The Salvation Army. The funds will be distributed through The Salvation Army to provide housing opportunities for families in the Southeast Louisiana region. “New Orleans is a special city that I will always consider home, and I want to continue to use my blessings and resources to positively impact the lives of those who share my love for this city,” said Shinn. “My goal is continue to leave a lasting legacy in this community that will only help brighten the future of New Orleans and its residents.”
There has been a lot of conjecture whether the community can support the Hornets. Do you think this team can survive here given the right set of economic circumstances? Shinn: I’ve always felt that. People have to understand, I will be 70 years old next month, and I’m not a spring chicken anymore. If I had been 40, I would have fought this thing tooth and toenail until the end. I would have not had made this decision had I not been the age I am, and I’d been through this battle with cancer and had I not gotten myself so right with the Lord it was time for me to start giving back, and start spending the rest of my days serving my maker. That’s exactly what I intend to do. After going through cancer, I made the decision to do that.
Shinn: One of those questions was the team’s financial condition. Shortly after the NBA takeover, reports indicated the team was burdened with a great deal of long-term debt (about $111 million). How did the team get into that long-term debt that seemed to be prevalent? I think our long-term debt situation came when we started to try to build a team. When we first signed Peja (Stojakovic) and we signed him to a big (five years, $64 million) contract, and for the next year we wanted to take another step forward and the way to do that was to sign another free agent. And Morris Peterson was there (four years, $23 million). I talked to our GM at the time, Jeff Bower. We wanted to sign him, and it was going to cost money. We had to get rid of some other players to get our payroll down. During that time, we didn’t get rid of those players.
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.
Shinn: There’s been a lot of misconception, I think, that Gary and I fought and didn’t communicate toward the end. That’s just not true. I care deeply for the community. When Gary Chouest wasn’t going to buy the team, the NBA purchasing the team was the best option for me and for the club to remain in New Orleans. In my conversation with David Stern, I told David, ‘My goal is to keep the team there. If you guys will work to that goal, I’d be happy for you guys to take it and go with it.’ And so, here we are.
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? George Shinn: That’s a good question. 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. But really, the only person that knows the answer about that is Gary. (Chouest has not commented about the breakdown of the deal). 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. And with all the uncertainty and whatever, I felt it was time to do it.
By the way, I’m told (Davis’) issues in NO had a lot more to do with George Shinn than Byron. Byron simply took the brunt of Baron feeling he was deceived. Again, we’ll see.
Charges that the league has exposed itself to a serious conflict of interest by taking over operating control of one of its franchises for the first time in NBA history “… You’d be surprised at how uninvolved we are [in New Orleans]. The only place we get involved is advice on ticket sales, groups, renewals, suggestions when they ask us if we have additional personnel they can hire. They set the budget, we approve it, and we’ve approved anything that they previously wanted to do on the player side. It’s kind of interesting.
Why the NBA felt the need to buy the Hornets from longtime owner George Shinn “We just followed the crowd. Baseball took over the Montreal Expos, the NHL took over the Coyotes, and we stepped in to make sure that the Hornets would be well operated and be made stronger. … There was no more money that a principal owner was going to put into the team, and the negotiations [for Shinn to sell the team] had dragged on for so long that we thought it was the time to show a little love for New Orleans. So we stepped in, we continued the strong day-to-day management, we added some strengthening features, we talked with the governor and the mayor, both of whom have been tremendously cooperative together with the business community, as well. “We’re out there looking for the new season-ticket campaign which has just been launched, and we’re hopeful that when we put this together there will emerge a buyer who wants to own the team in New Orleans. There [is] no shortage of suitors who have contacted us who want to buy the team and take it someplace else. … [But] that would not be our first choice at all. That’s not why we stepped in and bought the team.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.”
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.