|The Hornets might have an owner. Great timing. Only been a year and a half. (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ben Golliver
NBA commissioner David Stern has been hinting for some time that the league-owned New Orleans Hornets have a buyer. On Friday, a name finally emerged.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that a group led by a California businessman could pay up to $340 million for the franchise, while agreeing to keep it in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.
ABC26.com also reported that a Hornets sale is pending and provided an estimated sale price, although they did not reveal details of the ownership group.
A group led by Los Angeles-area businessman Raj Bhathal, who founded one of the country’s leading swimwear manufacturing companies, has emerged as a top candidate to purchase the New Orleans Hornets from the NBA, sources said Thursday. The group includes Larry J. Benson, brother of Saints owner Tom Benson and former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy.
Bhathal, 72, and Larry Benson, 66, each once owned franchises in the now defunct World League of American Football, a spring league venture initiated and funded by the NFL in 1990. Bhathal owned the franchise in Orlando, Fla., while Benson owned the team in San Antonio, his home base.
The sale price would reflect a $20 million increase over the $320 million that the NBA reportedly paid to purchase the Hornets from the league, according to the Orange County Business Journal.
Although there is no word yet from the state, city, NBA, or new ownership, the New Orleans Hornets, owned by the NBA, will be sold within the next 10 days to 2 weeks to an out-of-town owner.
The new out-of-town owner will pony up $340 million for the team.
The paper provides some background on Bhathal's business as well.
Stern has maintained since the league took over the Hornets that the league was not interested in buyers who wanted to relocate the franchise.
Raj Manufacturing makes and sells swimsuits under its own brands and through licenses with Irvine-based St. John Knits International Inc., Guess Inc. of Los Angeles and New York-based PVH Corp.’s Tommy Hilfiger Group, among others.
Bhathal started Raj Manufacturing with his wife Marta more than 40 years ago. Both sold their stakes in the company to their children, Lisa Vogel and Alex Bhathal, in 2007. The siblings run Raj Manufacturing as co-presidents. Raj Manufacturing has $130 million in annual sales, according to a Business Journal estimate.
The league's ownership of the Hornets has drawn plenty of criticism, including from the likes of former Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and it sparked a major controversy in December when Stern reportedly vetoed a 3-way trade that would have sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers. Paul was later traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Stern is scheduled to speak to the media on Saturday night during his annual All-Star press conference. Surely the Hornets sale will be a hot topic.
Hat tip: HoopsHype.com