An Ounce Of Perception, A Pound Of Obscure

Published: April 10, 2012

A quick progress report on the complicated ownership situation of the New Orleans Hornets.

There has been little hard news on the NBA side of the ownership situation. Given the amount of private money involved, the sensitive nature of the negotiations, and the gag orders, this is understandable. The only real change in the tune is that Stern said that three groups are in the running, not just as he reported around the All-Star break and as Jac Sperling indicated in Mid-March.

To be clear, we don’t know who the groups are, but it has been reported that the two were centered around Gary Chouest and Raj Bhathal. Tom Benson was reportedly involved at one point, and there were vague reports of a fourth group. It’s also unclear if any of these groups share members or if this third group is a combination of the other two in the running.

An NFL owners meeting was recently held, and Benson could have gotten approval to buy the Hornets at that time, something that rumors indicated was an issue in February. NFL owners can own major sports team in certain cases with NFL approval (pdf page 174/292).

For every report of X, one of not X arises. It’s tough out there.

Our friends indicate that there was some activity in the Chouest camp a few weeks ago, then the activity died. Shortly after, Chouest started appearing at games, including in his courtside seats. The activity could be the close of activity that took up the time in which he would normally attend games, but it could be ownership related, one way or the other.

Shortly after that, the third group is reported involved. Is the third group ploy? Is it real? Is it a group that was behind that has surged? It is as behind as it always was and just being reported as a bigger threat to give incentive to the current frontrunner to increase his offer?

On the State side of things, the progress is more measurable. The bill that contains the money to renovate the Arena, House Bill 2, has been introduced and is in the Ways and Means committee. It has been there for weeks, and this bill will not pass soon. It’s an extensive bill filled with finances, so it will likely take a while to clear all obstacles.

The bill confirms the reports that $50m will be set aside for Arena development (pdf page 16 of 131). $41.5m comes from money just for the Arena, and the other $8.5m comes from more general LSED money.

This bill has to pass, among other things, for the lease agreement to become effective July 1, 2012. Thus, the State is clearing away obstacles, even if it’s happening at the speed of bureaucracy.

We’ll have more soon about these bonds and the necessary tax credits, and we’ll be back sooner if we hear something.

Also, thanks to Ruah for the title.


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