Tom Benson brought an NFL Championship to New Orleans in 2010, as the team he owns the New Orleans Saints won their first Super Bowl in franchise history. His next mission will be trying to capture an NBA Title for the city as the “New Orleans Times Picayune” reported on Friday that the 83-year-old Benson has agreed to buy the Hornets from the Association for a reported price of $338 million. Benson met with NBA Commissioner David Stern and the Association’s Board of Governors Friday in New York City. He will become the sole owner of the franchise that the NBA purchased from former owner George Shinn.
Benson said that his primary motivation in buying the club was to assure that the franchise remains in the “Big Easy” a fate that he was not certain of if a group from outside of the state bought the team. Benson told reporters that he called Commissioner Stern and said “‘Look I’m the only guy you can count on who’s really going to stay here. Let’s work this thing out.”
The Saints owner said that the management team will be different than the front office that runs his football franchise. Benson said “We’re going to operate this as a separate unit altogether. I don’t see right now that we’re going to be able to interlock a lot of stuff. That doesn’t mean that these guys right here and Mickey Loomis is a good basketball guy, certainly won’t have some input. We’re going to have a management staff there just like you do in any other business.”
The purchase of the team puts an end to the Association’s ownership of the franchise, which was the cause of controversy when the NBA vetoed a deal that would have sent Hornets point guard to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three-way deal with the Houston Rockets. The Association would later agree to a deal that sent Paul to the Clippers which has led to that team’s revitalization.
Benson also told media members that he wants to change the team’s nick-name to something that is more representative of New Orleans. He said that he would explore whether he could make a deal with the owners of the Utah Jazz; a team that originated in New Orleans; to bring the name Jazz back to the city.