NEW ORLEANS - Saints owner Tom Benson has taken on the city's NBA franchise, purchasing the New Orleans Hornets for a reported $338 million.
"Tom, welcome to the NBA, you're only one player away," said NBA Commissioner David Stern.
The purchase comes about 18 months after the league took over the team in December, 2010.
Benson, who is 85, said his goal was to make the Hornets as successful as the Saints.
"We expect this to be one of the most successful teams in the league. Our goal is to win a championship, otherwise I wouldn't get in," he said.
He plans to give the other owners a lot of competition. “You are going to see some outstanding basketball…something that we are all going to be proud of.”
Benson was announced as team owner at an afternoon press conference in New York by Stern.
"We found the right owner (for the Hornets)," said Stern. “The fact that he was born and raised in New Orleans and had such spectacular success with the Saints…he seems like an ideal owner.”
Stern further said that Benson is committed to the city. "Tom has been a leader, He's deeply invested in the rebuilding of New Orleans post-Katrina."
Ron Forman, chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, said, "What we wanted was not only a viable owner, an owner to keep the team in New Orleans, but an owner who can bring winning, championship ball to our city and state."
The Hornets are the best representative of saying New Orleans is really open for business, Stern went on to say.
"In combination with the Saints, it's a real statement about the vitality of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," said Stern.
When Benson was asked about Drew Brees’ status, he said, “I talked to Drew Brees this morning. I told him what was going on. He was very excited about it.” Benson said that the Saints were close to a deal with their franchise quarterback.
The Hornets' future ownership had been in limbo since the NBA purchased the team from George Shinn two years ago. The NBA bought the team for about $300 million.
By the time the deal was done, the NBA broke evenly, according to Stern.
Forbes magazine estimated Benson's net worth at $1.1 billion in its most recent list of billionaires.
Benson emerged as a contender for the team after deals involving a California swimwear magnate Raj Bathal and former Hornets minority owner and local shipping tycoon Gary Chouest fell through.
The league's ownership of the team caused issues during the offseason when NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed several trades the club tried to make for Chris Paul.
The team suffered through a poor season that came as the team lost Paul and David West and suffered injuries to key starters, notably Eric Gordon, Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry.
Benson's purchase will give him a virtual monopoly on pro sports in the New Orleans market. The red hot Saints franchise has a waiting list for season tickets and has been in the playoffs three of the past four years, including a Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.
Benson also purchased an office tower near the sports complex, which has had improvements, most notably Champion's Square and several overhauls of the Superdome, including a naming rights deal with Mercedes-Benz.
Last month the State and Hornets organization announced a long term deal that would keep the team in New Orleans through 2024. That deal requires the state to pay for $40 million in upgrades to the New Orleans Arena.
State lawmakers are expected to approve the agreement during the current legislative session.