Benson already calling shots for Hornets

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 16, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 16 at 6:02 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS - His purchase agreement has yet to be finalized, but it is clear Tom Benson is already calling the shots for the New Orleans Hornets.

Monday, he joined NBA Commissioner David Stern, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Governor Bobby Jindal in making an important announcement.

"It is my great pleasure to announce, that New Orleans is slated to host the NBA All-Star game in 2014," said Stern.

Stern says the league's premier event is returning to New Orleans as a reward for season ticket holders and sponsor who stuck with the Hornets in tough times.

"This city has shown through final fours and Super Bowls that you have to be crazy not to use this as a host city," said Stern.

Friday, Stern introduced the Saints owner Benson as the future owner of the Hornets.

Benson promised an all-star caliber team.

"My goal is going to be to bring championship here," said Benson. "Nothing is going be satisfying me or this city, until we bring the championship here, just like we did with the New Orleans Saints."

 

If Benson gets his way, the team will win the championship with a new name.

"I would like all you to help me with this," said Benson. "We want to change the name from Hornets to something that means New Orleans and Louisiana. The Hornets don't mean anything."

Stern reminded Benson, the team wasn't his to rename just yet.

When asked, Stern also said it was not very likely that the city's former team, the Utah Jazz, would part with its name anytime soon.

Governor Jindal and Mayor Landrieu called Benson's buy and the 2014 NBA All-Star game -- big wins for Louisiana and New Orleans.

"We're not just building a basketball franchise, we're rebuilding a great American City," said Landrieu.

"Today, we send the message out to the entire world that the Hornets are here to stay, that New Orleans is not just an NFL city, New Orleans is an NBA city, New Orleans is a world-class city that can compete with any city not only in America, but the entire world," said Jindal.

Benson says he will operate the Hornets and the Saints independently of each other, but as a businessman who made his fortune operating multiple car dealerships, Benson admits there will be opportunities for synergy.

"Naturally, if you're selling Chevrolets or Mercedes, if it work in Chevrolet, you can use some of that a Mercedes dealership, so this will be the same way," said Benson.

Commissioner Stern says both benefit from each other's season ticket base and sponsorships.

"There are huge opportunities for both teams to improve their performance," said Stern.

Before Benson's deal to buy the Hornets is finalized, the Louisiana legislature must approved $40 million in improvements to the New Orleans Arena and money for a new Hornets training facility.

The purchase must also be approved by the NBA Board of Governors.

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