Jimmy Smith of the Times-Picayune reports that a California-based businessman named Raj Bhathal is heading up a new ownership group that is expected to make a strong push to purchase the New Orleans Hornets. The 72-year-old Bhathal founded a swimwear manufacturing company in 1972 and previously owned a franchise in the now-defunct World League of American Football.
Bhathal's group has some local ties in the form of partner Larry J. Benson, another former WLAF owner whose brother, Tom, owns the Saints. Former NBA coach and executive Mike Dunleavy is also in the group.
The NBA, which currently owns the Hornets, has expressed a strong desire for the team to remain in New Orleans, and would require any prospective buyer to sign a 10-year lease extension to stay through 2024.
NBA commissioner David Stern said earlier this week that he believes a deal to buy the Hornets will be in place in the next couple of weeks.