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Hornets to be sold to Saints owner Tom Benson for $338 million

Apr 13, 2012, 12:09 PM EDT

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Tom Benson, the long-time owner of the New Orleans Saints, now will own both professional sports teams in that market.

Benson has reached a deal to buy the team for $338 million, reports David Aldridge of NBA.com.

The league reached a tentative agreement early Friday morning with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson to buy the team for $338 million, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.

The NBA Board of Governors had been expected to approve a sale of the team at its meetings this week in New York. Going into the week a California-based group led by Mike Dunleavy and Raj Bhathal was considered the front runner. But Benson stepped forward able to buy the team himself, without a group of investors, and that plus his ties to New Orleans apparently swayed the other owners.

A source indicated that Tom Benson spoke with Stern on Monday, and the deal came together quickly after that discussion. Benson will have to pay approximately 10 percent of the purchase price immediately. The NBA’s Finance Committee is expected to approve the sale Friday morning before the Board of Governors meeting adjourns, with final approval on the sale expected later in the spring.

The Times-Picayune broke the story this morning.

The NFL used to have strict rules against their owners also owning teams in other sports, but that has been relaxed to allow owners to have multiple teams in the same market, according to ProFootballTalk at NBC.

The league bought the Hornets from George Shinn, who tried his hardest to run that team into the ground and ruin the market like he had done in Charlotte. That sale price was reportedly $318 million (so the owners turn a small profit on the deal). While operating the team the NBA was able to negotiate a new, more favorable lease deal for the New Orleans Arena — a deal that keeps the team in the city through 2024 — and to build up the season ticket and fan bases in the city. That plus a new CBA that is more favorable to small markets made the Hornets attractive to investors.

The fans in the Big Easy have stepped forward to support the team. They deserve stable ownership and now they have it.

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