Keeping with the theme of Hornets’ ownership (let’s call this Unofficial Ownership Week), I’m going spotlight a person I want to see buy the team: Silvio Berlusconi. I know there has been no link between him and the franchise, and he has a long, long list of controversies and legal problems, but here at Swarm and Sting we like to look at new perspectives.
Berlusconi is the owner of the AC Milan soccer (football) club and, I’ll be honest, I’m a huge fan of that team. So whatever, I’m biased on this one. But hear me out. This actually makes sense because he is also the current Prime Minister of Italy and the 118th richest man in the world with a net worth of $7.8 billion. Yup, that sounds pretty good. Let’s break this down a little more after the jump…
The money factor
First and foremost, Berlusconi has the money to purchase the Hornets as a sole owner. No need to find a minority owner or scrape together an ownership group. He also has enough money to pay off the Hornets $111 million in long-term debt. One of the keys to making this franchise very profitable in the future (after the new CBA) is eliminating as much of that debt as possible.
Beyond that, Berlusconi also has the money to invest in the team to keep it competitive. In European soccer (football) players’ rights are normally bought and sold. Last season alone Berlusconi bought Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho (two of the best forwards in the world) for a combined 42 million euros. That’s over 60 million US dollars just for the rights of the two players. Factor in their salaries (Ibrahimovic is the 7th highest paid soccer player in the world) and you can see the type of financial commitment Berlusconi is willing to make. He bought AC Milan 1986 and the club have been nothing but successful since then. If Berlusconi were the Hornets’ owner then fans would never have to worry about not signing a player because his salary demands are too high. If the luxury tax still exists in the new CBA you can bet that Berlusconi wouldn’t mind paying it to field a competitive team.
Fixing the Hornets TV deal
The Hornets currently have one of the worst TV deals in the entire league. The fact that not every game is shown in New Orleans, in high-definition and that the Northshore only started getting games in December is absurd. Silvio Berlusconi made much of his fortune in the media—specifically he owns multiple TV stations. Berlusconi is the type of person who could come in and rework the TV deal for the Hornets. As it stands now local TV revenue is not shared in the NBA. The new CBA will go a long way towards equality with revenue sharing, but teams will still keep a large portion of their local revenue. Therefore it is vital for the Hornets to negotiate better deals to maintain a positive cash flow. The University of Texas is launching their own TV network and the school is expected to make boatloads of money from it. Imagine if Berlusconi launched Hornets TV. I’d certainly watch game 4 of the Lakers series over and over again.
Expanding the fanbase
As James pointed out earlier this month, the Hornets would benefit from trying to expand their fanbase overseas. Having Berlusconi as the owner will only help with that. AC Milan is one of the biggest teams in all of Europe and has a large global following. Berlusconi can use that to help the Hornets tap into global markets. There is a lot of potential revenue the Hornets could bring in by having a large presence in Europe. Having a bond between AC Milan and the Hornets would only help each club expand its global reach. For years Belusconi has tried to gain a bigger presence for Milan in the US. This could be his way to do just that while saving the Hornets.
Keeping the team in New Orleans
I’ll admit this is where things get slightly uncertain. There is no way to know if Berlusconi would keep the team in New Orleans or move them. So I’m going to go with this explanation on why he wouldn’t move the team: It’s well known that Berlusconi is a womanizer so he’ll probably be so enthralled with Bourbon Street that he wouldn’t dare move the team away. Assuming that Berlusconi shows any intention of keeping the team in New Orleans he would be embraced by the city. Given that he is an egomaniac then maybe he’d fall in love with the city because the city fell in love with him (woah). It could be a perfect match.
Chances of this Happening
David Stern is eager to expand the NBA globally and having Berlusconi own a team would certainly help that. But given all the controversies that have followed Berlusconi, Stern might be cautious approving this sale. Yes, Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets but he is squeaky clean compared to Berlusconi. There is also nothing linking the Italian Prime Minister to the Hornets. But for Hornets fans this is exactly the type of owner they should want.
Think Berlusconi would be a good owner? Have someone else in mind? Let us know in the comments below or on twitter @nolajake.
I’ll leave you with this to start your day…