The team's net cash in operating activities, which represents the "measurement of money [owner George Shinn] is being asked to take out of his pocket to keep operations going," according to sports economist Andrew Zimbalist. In 2008, that amount was $7.4 million; in 2009, $1.4 million (slide 12). Zimbalist points out that "things got much more problematic for the franchise" the following year.
The two obvious questions that arise after reading this document are...
1) Did George Shinn just fleece the NBA by selling this franchise for, reportedly, up to $300 million?
2) Can any prospective buyers in Louisiana reasonably be expected to do so much better than Shinn that these huge deficits could be avoided?
To the first question, the league has a vested interest in propping up its franchise sale prices, keeping the buy-in price high to ensure maximum milking from the overseas billionaires who represent the league's future owners. The Hornets might not be worth $300 million, especially after reading these documents and after all star point guard Chris Paul inevitably skips down, but the right to own one of only 30 NBA teams surely hovers around that price. Contingent, of course, on being able to relocate.
To the second question, these numbers paint a pretty grim reality, one that was always assumed, and probably known by those who needed to know or who were interested in purchasing the team. For the general public, however, it casts a cold cloud over the city's chances to enjoy NBA basketball indefinitely into the future.
The only hope for basketball in New Orleans now is for an ownership group to arise that is not only happy to keep basketball in New Orleans out of the goodness of its heart, but is willing to do so while sustaining heavy losses while playing in front of hit-or-miss fan support. Good luck with that.
This team is as good as gone.