Hornets Ownership Situation Nearing the Close

Published: February 27, 2012

I’m back from my Mardi Gras escapades with some thoughts on what’s been going on with the Hornets ownership situation.

A while back I told you that the Hornets sale process had entered a new phase. Through that same source I heard a number of other things regarding the process, and thus far it appears that almost all of them have come to fruition. If you listen to my radio show, you’ve heard my run-down of how this would all play out. So far everything that we’re hearing makes sense, which leads me to believe that we’re in what I’ve described previously as the end game.

Among other things, Hornets247 sources have confirmed that the group headed by Dunleavy and financed by Raj Bhathal and Larry Benson is the frontrunner, and that Gary Chouest group has become the backup plan. We can also now confirm that Tom Benson is out.

Oh, by the way, hello! It’s me, Joe, your long lost Hornets Dude. Sorry about my abrupt departure from the Creole Blue world, but when Mardi Gras comes knocking it’s best to grab a hold and follow her wherever she’ll have you.

This year that led me to Krewe of Mystic Orphans and Misfits Ball (M.O.M.’s Ball), where among other things I saw a band called Here Come the Mummies put on on one of the most incredible shows I’ve been to, and certainly the best by a non-New Orleans band. If you haven’t checked them out, I suggest you do. I can’t find a single video of the thing on youtube yet, and I honestly hope I never do. That was a magical performance that can’t possibly be captured fully on camera. You can’t see or hear things like that, you have to feel them. Also, if you were filming that show instead of dancing your face off, shame on you. Honey Island Swamp Band and the Pimps of Joytime were nice too, but the Mummies were out of this world.

You'll never guess which one is me...

The seductress that is Mardi Gras also took my six house guests, my lovely girlfriend, and me to the parade routes, where as usual everyone and everything was awesome. From Krewe du Vieux until Orpheus, I partied. If you had told me ten years ago that a tuba would be my favorite instrument, I would have called you an ugly name and mocked you. Today my belly gets warm in anticipation of the sweet sound of tubas marching in 2013.

I ended my Gras the same way I almost always do– cheering. Galactic at Tipitinas continues to be my go-to Mardi Gras move. Giving a final pat to Professor Longhair’s bust before entering a newly sun-lit world buzzing with the sounds of Fat Tuesday is the finish line to my marathon. This was my seventh year straight at that show, and I can’t really foresee a situation in which I decide to miss it in the future. Galactic put on another awesome performance, and although I don’t buy too much music thanks to WWOZ and Pandora, I bought the new Galactic album as soon as I got home.

Great Mardi Gras, everyone. Thanks for being part of it.

But yeah… basketball. My brain is at least back to 80% functionality, so I can totally write something rambling and random on the ownership stuff.

But first let me tell you how I got to experience the end of Linsanity. I was at the parades on St. Charles as my DVR recorded the game at home, but someone told me it was close. I headed back to my friends house a block off the parade routes to catch the last quarter live. He was throwing/had thrown a party, and had a million house guests from out of town. Somehow most of them wound up being New Yorkers, so I got to watch that quarter surrounded by obnoxious Knicks fans who were way too vocal about the Hornets sucking on the court, Stern’s ownership, the possibility of them leaving, etc. Obviously that’s not something I take kindly to, especially in my own city, especially during Mardi Gras.

I released my inner New Yorker and trashed them. I ripped their management, their team, their “stars”, their city, their past, their awful accents, and even Jeremy Lin. Get a few beers in me, surround me with Knicks fans, and put my Hornets on TV in a winnable game and I get a bit… offensive.

Hell, I’m surprised that I didn’t throw down with a few of them. I truly hate ignorant Knicks fans. Sorry. I do respect them for liking such an awfully run organization, but I still hate them with a fiery passion usually reserved for pop music, bad tequila, idiotic parking tickets, and outright lying politicians.

I risked it all that we would pull out that W, ending Linsanity once and for all, and I was rewarded greatly when the Hornets prevailed. There are few things I enjoy more than a Mardi Gras parade, but beating the Knicks and ending Linsanity while in the presence of at least 15 Knicks fans? That was one of the most memorable experiences of not only my Hornets watching career, but my Mardi Gras career as well.

As I danced off into to the night, I told one particularly disheartened Knicks fan who I’d had words with earlier that it is OK to cry if he’s feeling sad. From the look on his face, I think he may have taken me up on it as I left.

Seriously though, ownership.

Things make sense right now. The news that there are two ownership groups left standing tall and that the Dunleavy group has the upper hand seems correct. As soon as I heard it was down to two, I thought to myself, “that sounds like it’s real!”. This is how I was told it would play out. I then mostly confirmed it shortly after with Mister and Miss Sources (they aren’t married), and as of today I really do believe it’s true.

It makes sense that Chouest is on the backburner (sorry, Hornets staff who were clearly hoplieving that he would prevail). He always seemed like the eventual owner, but from what I can tell he’s just unwilling to overpay for the team at all, and especially not to compensate for what he may lack in terms of the NBA connections needed to get the upper hand in these current negotiations.

Apparently he’s a businessman who cares about twenty or thirty million. There are worse things, I guess, but there are also better things.

To be honest, it always worried me that Chouest wasn’t willing to just throw another thirty million or whatever on top to get a deal done with Shinn a year and a half ago. I mean, really? That’s what Marc Cuban shells out in luxury tax payments to get beaten in the first round most years. If a guy is going to sweat a number in the low eight-digits when buying a team, I imagine that he’s not going to be willing to compete with the regular luxury tax payers in bigger markets.

At this point I think that Bhathal/Dunleavy/Benson/Bart are going to be the owners. Dunleavy has seen this process play out too many times to be out-gunned at the last minute, or to have come in with shaky finances or an ill-thought out proposal. Could things explode? Sure. Just ask Alex Meruelo, who watched as his seemingly done deal with the Hawks fell through after further review of his finances. But I tend to believe they won’t because of Dunleavy. It would just be overkill on the insanity, even if Bhathal is still a bit of a mystery.

Truth is, I haven’t been able to find much about the Bhathal’s finances so far. If he and his wife are the main money, which they seemingly are, then they must have quite a bit. I feel like even with Dunleavy’s leadership, this group wouldn’t have stood a chance without some serious cash behind it, so it stands to reason that the Bhathal’s pockets are deep. Benson and Dunleavy don’t have anywhere near the assets to seriously put a bid together otherwise.

So that’s that. We’re in the closing stretch of ownership stuff. I know it’s been a long road, but this really is the end. I’m putting the over/under for finalization of a deal at March 26th, and that’s only so late because of how crazy things have been so far with the sale process. It should be sooner than that if there aren’t any complications (ha!).

Closing note– When I spoke with sources familiar with Dunleavy’s ownership group a while back, I was assured that Dunleavy himself has no interest in coaching or becoming the GM of the Hornets. So if Dell or Monty isn’t safe, it’s not because Dunleavy would take their spot(s).