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Wed, 18 Apr 2012 05:33 PM EDT

Tom Benson brought assurance to the Saints nearly 30 years ago and now plans to do the same for the Hornets in small-market New Orleans. Football scores

“We anticipate this club to be one of the most notable clubs in the league, otherwise I don’t want to get involved,” Benson said. “This is merely a good thing and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

A person familiar with the deal says the price is $338 million. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity as the financial terms haven’t been announced. NFL scores

The NBA has been trying to sell the Hornets since purchasing the club from founder George Shinn in December 2010. While preparing the team for sale the league arranged a new lease for the Hornets to remain in the state-owned New Orleans Arena thru 2024.

“The city is among the country’s treasures and we really have found the perfect owner,” Commissioner David Stern said. “Our goal all along has been to get the Hornets bought by someone whose dedication to New Orleans would be unrivaled.”

The framework of ownership negotiations were handled in a way that a new Hornets proprietor would have to take the lease worked out between the NBA and Gov. Bobby Jindal. The lease contract also requested $50 million in enhancements to the basketball stadium, which sits right across the way from the Superdome.

Once the NBA accepts the sale of the team to Benson, the step after that is for the state legislature to confirm the arena lease deal due to the funding needed for stadium enhancements. But legislative leaders already have publicly said support for the suggested lease contract, which would become effective in July.

The 84-year-old Benson, a New Orleans-native, has owned the Saints since 1985, when he stepped in to block efforts from other prospective financiers to move the NFL organization to Jacksonville, Florida. Now Benson has made another major investment to stabilize the NBA’s presence in the Big Easy on the same day that the Hornets were hosting the Utah Jazz, the team New Orleans lost to relocation in 1979.

Benson helped bring the Saints their 1st playoff appearance in 1987 and ultimately a super Bowl title in 2010. His ownership of the Hornets means the 2 small-market franchises both will be local run and now can work as partners in their efforts to attract company sponsorships, and Hornets fans can at least hope that may translate into a better product on the hardwood.

While the Saints have now become a valued institution which has become entrenched in the local culture since the club’s founding in 1967, the Hornets are relatively new to Louisiana’s pro sports landscape.

Former owner Shinn made a decision to pull out in 2010. He was incapable of finding a buyer who would dedicate to keeping the team in New Orleans, so that the NBA took the extraordinary step of taking ownership of the team and has been working to find a new permanent local owner for a year and a half.

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