Outgoing Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest says he remains as interested in keeping the NBA in New Orleans as he was when he first invested in the club.
Chouest attended Friday night's home game against Oklahoma City and says the reason he bought into in the Hornets "hasn't changed from Day 1." A Louisiana native whose company supplies vessels to the offshore energy industry, Chouest became a part owner when the Hornets returned to New Orleans from Oklahoma City in 2007. Last spring he neared a deal to take full control, but negotiations with majority owner George Shinn stalled, and Chouest won't comment on why.In the NBA's move to take over the Hornets, Chouest will relinquish his minority ownership share to the league. This makes sense, because there would be all sorts of red tape if the NBA had tried to purchase only Shinn's share. More importantly, Commissioner David Stern and NBA will eventually be charged with selling the team, and they would rather have full control over that process than split control with a minority owner involved. Chouest, therefore, is free to either become part of a local investment group or get his money and financing together and proceed with a full ownership bid as was originally expected. But the NBA is not obligated in any way to commit to Chouest and they will certainly open up the sale process to all interested parties. Friday's news, then, boils down to a vaguely positive end to Chouest's recent silence, and nothing more. Chouest had been ripped in New Orleans media for not commenting about his failed bid to purchase the team, as it left so many unanswered questions, opening up the possibility of relocation. By saying now that he still supports the Hornets, New Orleans now has at least one wealthy investor in the picture. Unfortunately, it's the same investor they've always had, and he apparently doesn't have the financial wherewithal to manage full-time ownership and sustain the organization's heavy financial losses. Of course, one interested local investor is better than no interested local investors. But there's a huge difference between supporting the Hornets in theory and committing to financially support the Hornets, and this week's news make it clear which side of that divide Chouest currently falls in.