NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07: New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle walk on the field prior to the 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and the Detroit Lions at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(SB Nation, Mike Prada) At long last, it appears the NBA has found a local buyer for the Hornets. New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is expected to purchase the team for $338 million, according to NBA.com's David Aldridge. The expectation is that Benson will keep the team in New Orleans, as the New Orleans Arena lease was extended until 2024 last month.
Benson was one of two potential buyers for the Hornets, beating out a group led by Los Angeles businessman Raj Bhathal. NFL rules prohibit one person from owning an NFL team and a non-NFL team in a different NFL market, but this arrangement is OK because both teams are in the same market. Benson will be the sole owner of the franchise assuming the NBA approves the sale, according to Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The NBA took the unprecedented step to take over the franchise from previous owner George Shinn in December of 2010, vowing to make the team more financially stable for prospective new owners.
The league's role in owning the team was called into question when NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed a trade that would have sent star Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers in December, 2011. Paul was eventually traded to the Clippers. Stern has maintained he was acting as the Hornets' representative and not as the NBA commissioner.