Mar 20, 2012, 2:01 PM EST
With a new lease deal in place to keep the team in the New Orleans Arena, the sale of the Hornets appears closer than ever.
The NBA Board of Governors has a regularly scheduled spring meeting on its calendar in mid-April, and that would be the ideal time for a sale to be approved. Sources indicate the process, which on the surface has seemed to move along at a plodding pace, could accelerate in the coming days because of that window.
The sale can be approved by conference call at any time after that, but the league would like to get out of the ownership business as soon as possible
As for who the new owner will be, it looks like a previously discussed California group, but the details are in flux.
One group includes Raj Bhathal, owner of one the largest swimwear manufacturing businesses in the country, partnered with San Antonio car dealer Larry Benson, brother of Saints owner Tom Benson, and former NBA coach and executive Mike Dunleavy, who has been the front man in that faction’s negotiations.
(Gary) Chouest, the Louisiana-born owner of Edison Chouest Offshore and one-time 35-percent owner of the Hornets, is the other party the league is courting. Sources somewhat familiar with the negotiations say they would not be surprised if Chouest, in the end, is part of the ownership group in some capacity. The Bhathal consortium has courted local investors and Chouest could end up among them, as could local attorney Morris Bart, who is on record as saying he’d be willing to buy into an ownership group on a modest basis.
Basically, the sooner the better. Everyone — even David Stern — is on board with that.
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