Gary Chouest still interested in Hornets

NEW ORLEANS -- Outgoing New Orleans Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest said he remains as interested in keeping the NBA in New Orleans as he was when he first invested in the club.

Chouest, who still has his front row seats near the Hornets' bench, attended a home game Friday night against Oklahoma City and briefly spoke about his continued interest in the club as he walked from an owner's suite to his seats shortly before tipoff.

"As far as my future involvement, the purpose hasn't changed as to why I invested from Day 1," Chouest said. "The same situation still exists and the same reasoning for continuing to support the team still exists."

NBA Commissioner David Stern announced on Monday that the league is purchasing 100 percent of the team, pending anticipated approval by the league's board of governors. Stern has appointed Jac Sperling, a New Orleans native and vice chairman of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, as the NBA's caretaker of the Hornets.

Sperling said this week that his assignment is to make the club attractive to a "local buyer" who would ideally keep the club in New Orleans. Stern, who said the Hornets are worth around $300 million, added that small market teams should become more profitable once a new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA players' association and a new revenue sharing model are in place.

Sperling, meanwhile, said his intention was to meet with state and city officials to see how the team's arena lease could be amended and what further financial incentives could be added to offer more financial security to a prospective buyer who intended to keep the team where it is.

When Stern announced the NBA's takeover, he said "nothing precludes" Chouest from coming back to the table and later referred to him as a "potential future owner" of the team.

A Louisiana native whose company supplies vessels to the offshore energy industry, Chouest bought 25 percent of the Hornets when the club returned to New Orleans in 2007 following a two-season stint in Oklahoma City, the team's temporary home Hurricane Katrina. During the past three seasons, Chouest's shares increased to 35 percent.

Chouest has described himself as an avid basketball fan. He has an NBA regulation size basketball court on his property in Galliano, La.

Last spring, Chouest neared a deal to take full control, but negotiations with majority owner George Shinn stalled.

"I don't have any comments on that at this point," Chouest said when asked why the deal with Shinn fell through.

Stern has said that many NBA teams have been losing money during the economic slowdown of the past few years and that Shinn, whose primary business was the Hornets, was not in as comfortable a position as other team owners to absorb further operating losses.