Trading George Shinn for Gary Chouest

Published: April 9, 2010

Shinn and ChouestIt now appears to be a near certainty that Gary Chouest will purchase a controlling interest(and probably the entire interest) in the New Orleans Hornets in the very near future.  With that, an era will end.  George Shinn has owned the controlling interest in the Hornets for the entire existence of the team, having rebuffed numerous offers in the past to buy him out.  His stewardship of the team has had some nice highs, and some terrible lows.  However, here is the one thing that should matter most to Hornets fans about George Shinn:  He has consistently put a solid product on the floor.  Including this season, The Hornets will have had 14 years of .500 or better basketball, as opposed to 8 sub-.500 seasons.  Considering that four of those poor seasons were expansion years, that’s a very good record.  

As for those who see this as a blessing because they consider George Shinn “cheap”, his team salaries have been in the bottom 10 of the league only 7 times in that 22-year history – and again, four of those were during the expansion seasons.  He has, quite simply, not skimped on player salaries, even if his front office has been slimmer than others.  Personally,  I still can’t get mad about that front office, though – look at the team record listed above.  It’s not like the Hornets have been wracking up losing seasons like the Warriors or Clippers.

So I, for one, wish George Shinn the best of luck, and am not bubbling with joy to see him go.

Gary Chouest

With that, however, we move on to the potential new owner, Gary Chouest.  I’ve been sifting through the web to get information about him for the last couple days, but in the end the only word I can safely apply to him is “private”.  He’s only granted one interview about the Hornets – the day his minority share was introduced – and since then he has been silent.  His public statements are usually short and to the point, and are entirely taken up with business matters.  So no, we’ll probably have to wait until later to find out whats on his iPod.

On a public level, however, there is some information to dig into.  He’s active in Louisiana politics, though that’s not surprising considering the size of his company.  He is the President of Edison Chouest Offshore, LLC, a company that bears the name of his father, it’s founder.  Started as a service company used to deliver goods to offshore platforms and installations, in 1974 the company began designing, building, and operating its own ships, laying the foundation for the existing massive shipbuilding operation the company now runs.  With 7,000+ employees worldwide and shipyards both in the US and Brazil, the company is routinely ranked near the top of the deep water service industry and is a major player in custom-built high tech deep water vessels – with a focus on research vessels that appeals to the nerd in me.

Trying to get a handle on Chouest’s personal worth, however, isn’t that easy.  He’s been reported as worth anywhere between 500 million and 1 billion dollars, though Forbes does not have him on their list of american billionaires.  The company itself is privately held, so its financials are not required to be publically disclosed, and though the company is assumed to be owned entirely by the Chouest family, it is unknown how much is personally owned by Gary Chouest.

In the end, however, having Chouest own the team could be very good.  He isn’t like some ownership groups – just a part of a larger group that could fight over how best to run the team.  He also has more resources than George Shinn did – and has other sources of income than the basketball team, which may(I can’t emphasize this “may” enough) make him more willing to absorb losses in the short term.  He also has a history that indicates he’s fond of basketball.  He was reportedly involved in an attempt in the 1990’s to purchase the Minnesota Timberwolves and bring them to New Orleans, and since becoming a minority owner has been a fixture in his courtside seats during games.   He is also, through and through, a Louisiana man.  When he bought into the Hornets, he stipulated that should George Shinn move the team, he would have to be bought out first.  With his company continuing to expand facilities in Louisiana over the last couple years, it just seems very unlikely he’d even consider taking the team out of state.

That, perhaps, can’t be overrated.  It’ll be nice to finally put to rest the worries that George Shinn would take the team and go nomad.

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