The days of referring to the "league-owned" New Orleans Hornets are coming to an end. The NBA has reached an agreement with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, who will buy the Hornets for $338MM, reports TNT's David Aldridge. Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune first reported that Benson was expected to become the team's new owner, and commissioner David Stern officially made the announcement today.
The NBA's Board of Governors made the decision after having narrowed down the bids for the Hornets to two. Benson and a group led by swimwear manufacturer Raj Bhathal were vying for ownership of the franchise, which the NBA bought for $318MM in 2010. While the NFL has rules about cross-ownership, the league allows ownership of a team in another league if the two franchises are in the same city, like the Hornets and Saints.
According to Aldridge, Benson will have to pay about 10% of the $338MM immediately. The NBA's Finance Committee is expected to approve the sale today, with final approval coming later in the spring. Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld reported this morning that a new TV deal for the Hornets has also been consummated.
When Benson takes over the Hornets, he'll have a number of decisions to make. Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported yesterday that Hornets management was nervous about Bhathal's group taking over, since the group included Mike Dunleavy, who likely would've wanted to clean house. It's not known how Benson will feel about retaining free agents such as Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Carl Landry. However, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweets that coach Monty Williams and GM Dell Demps are expected to have a good chance to keep their jobs.
The Hornets' arena lease, which Benson will assume, will keep the team in New Orleans through 2024. Whether or not they'll remain the Hornets that long is unknown. Kevin Spain of the Times-Picayune asked readers today whether Benson should keep the name or change it to something that is "more New Orleans."