New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson has decided to expand his influence in the Big Easy, agreeing Friday to purchase the New Orleans Hornets from the NBA for $338 million. The move is pending the approval of the league’s Board of Governors.
“We expect this club to be one of the most outstanding clubs in the league, otherwise I don’t want to get involved,” Benson said. “This is just a good thing and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Benson has owned the Saints since 1985, and his franchise secured their first playoff appearance in 1987.Undoubtedly, the high point of Benson’s ownership was their victory in Super Bowl 44 over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
The NBA has owned the Hornets since December 2010, when club founder George Shinn sold the team for an estimated $300 million. The league had negotiated a new lease for the Hornets to continue to play in New Orleans Arena — which is owned by the state of Louisiana — until 2024. The lease also calls for $50 million to be made in improvements to the arena, which is right across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home of the Saints.
Once the sale is finalized, the state legislature can approve the lease and the funding that would go towards improving the arena. Louisiana legislators have already expressed support for the deal, and the new lease would take effect in July.
The league’s ownership of the Hornets was marred by commissioner David Stern’s decision to nullify the Chris Paul trade that would have shipped the superstar point guard to the Los Angeles Lakers. Stern eventually allowed New Orleans to deal him to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Benson’s purchase is exciting for Hornets fans and New Orleans residents, and should be economically beneficial as well. With both of the city’s teams owned by the same man, the two franchises can now work in tandem to try and secure corporate sponsors. This should also bring a wave of positive publicity to New Orleans, which was swept up in the NFL bounty scandal that engulfed the Saints and resulted in Sean Payton being suspended for the 2012 season.