NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn has agreed to sell 25% of his NBA franchise to two investors with ties to Louisiana.
One of the men is Gary Chouest, owner of a Galliano offshore supply company, said a source who works in the NBA and did not want to be identified prior to a scheduled formal announcement on Tuesday night.
The source did not identify the other investor and Hornets officials said they could not comment prior to the scheduled announcement.
Chouest owns Edison Chouest Offshore, whose boats and barges ferry supplies and people to offshore oil and gas rigs and platforms.
Shinn has been seeking investors to reduce a large debt from buying out former minority partner Ray Wooldridge in January 2005, and he has said hoped selling to local investors would prove to fans and potential sponsors that he was serious about trying to make the Hornets' return to New Orleans a long and successful one.
According to recent surveys by Forbes magazine, the Hornets are worth around $248 million, meaning a one-quarter share would run around $62 million.
The Hornets this fall return to New Orleans for a full 41-game home schedule for the first time since being displaced to Oklahoma City by Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. The Hornets have played only nine regular season games in New Orleans since the storm.
Currently, the Hornets' lease at the New Orleans Arena runs through 2012, and Shinn has said he would like to extend it if fan support is strong and if the state fulfills its promise to build the team a new training headquarters.
The state's bond commission is expected later this year to review a request from the state Legislature and governor's office to supply up to $18 million to build a training facility that would be attached to the New Orleans Arena.
The City of New Orleans already has about $6 million set aside for the project as part of the agreement that brought the Hornets to New Orleans from Charlotte in 2002.
During the 2004-05 season, the Hornets' were last in the NBA in attendance, but also were among the worst teams in the league then, winning only 18 games.
Next season, the Hornets are expected to be a playoff contender and have new corporate sponsors, including Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages and Capital One Financial Corp., which have made several-year, multimillion dollar commitments in support of the franchise's return to the rebuilding Gulf Coast.