The New Orleans Hornets, this week purchased and taken over by the NBA, lost $18.2 million during the 2009-10 season, according to an audit obtained by the New York Times.
The Hornets had a disappointing season on the court in '09-10, anchored by injuries to superstar Chris Paul and franchise instability with general manager Jeff Bower taking over coaching duties from Byron Scott early in the year. The Hornets finished the season 37-45, and Bower left the franchise completely. The team wasn't terribly active in free agency, prompting Paul to reportedly push for a trade behind the scenes. Since then, cooler heads have prevailed, and new GM Dell Demps has been the most active in the league.
That the Hornets lost money is not surprising; Deadspin released leaked audits earlier this week that showed losses even in the successful 2008-09 season. But $18 million is a huge sum of money, compounded by the fact the now-former majority George Shinn was not nearly as independently wealthy as other NBA owners like Mark Cuban, Paul Allen and Stan Kroenke. Those levels of losses are unsustainable for owners like Shinn in markets like New Orleans.
The Hornets are indeed better on the court this season, with Paul healthy and the roster clicking. But financial losses are still to be expected. The NBA knows what it has gotten into with the Hornets takeover, and while we as observers are just now getting a peek inside, the league understands what an uphill battle turning around the team in New Orleans will be.