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New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson buys NBA's Hornets

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson has bought the New Orleans Hornets from the NBA, the NFL club announced Friday.

The team wrote via its Twitter account Friday that it is "thrilled" to announce "Tom Benson as the new owner of the New Orleans @Hornets!"

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NBA Commissioner David Stern confirmed the deal at a news conference later Friday.

"Tom's history of success in sports is well-known," Stern said at the news conference. "The fact that he was born and raised in New Orleans and (has) done such a spectacular job with the Saints made him, in my view, the ideal owner for the NBA franchise in New Orleans."

The sale of the team to Benson has to be approved by the NBA's Board of Governors, which is meeting in New York on Friday.

Benson, an 84-year-old New Orleans native, initially bid on the team in January before balking. He will be the team's sole owner, according to the Times-Picayune.

The purchase price was $338 million, NBA.com reported.

The Hornets were most recently owned by the NBA, which had been in the process of finding private ownership committed to keeping the franchise in New Orleans. The league has been trying to sell the team since making the unprecedented move to buy the club from founder George Shinn in December 2010.

While preparing the team for sale, the league negotiated a new lease for the Hornets to remain in the state-owned New Orleans Arena through 2024. The lease agreement also called for $50 million in improvements to the basketball stadium, which sits across the street from the Superdome.

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Due to the framework of ownership negotiations, the new Hornets owner would have to accept the lease worked out between the NBA and Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Once the NBA approves the sale of the team to Benson, the next step is for the state Legislature to approve the arena lease deal because of the funding needed for stadium improvements. Legislative leaders have already publicly voiced support for the proposed lease deal, which would take effect in July.

Benson has owned the Saints since 1985, and helped bring the franchise its first Super Bowl title in 2010. His ownership means the two small-market franchises will both be locally owned and now can work as partners in their efforts to attract corporate sponsorships. NFL rules prohibit owners from owning sports franchises in NFL markets other than their own.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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