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Hornets on the Internets: We Know Slightly More About Gary Chouest Edition


Gary Chouest's bid to buy the Hornets has vaulted him from near invisibility to mere obscurity.  Several interesting articles have come out about him recently, all from the trusty Times-Pic. They're helping to paint a fuller picture of Chouest than ATH originally did after rumors began swirling that a transfer of ownership was imminent.  We're seeing a man who is incredibly involved in the minutia of both the Hornets and his shipbuilding company, Edison Chouest.

First up is the Tuesday edition of the Times-Pic, which drops a bombshell:

Though an agreement in principle between New Orleans Hornetsminority owner Gary Chouest and majority owner George Shinn for Shinn’s sale of the team was reached three weeks ago, the consummation of the deal is now being slowed by Chouest’s desire to put together an out-of-state group of minority owners that would purchase a portion of the team, league sources said Monday.

While no definite percentage was quoted, a league source said Monday that Chouest is seeking to have a group of minority investors purchase "a significant chunk" of the 75 percent of the team that he’ll purchase from Shinn, though, the source said, Chouest would be the team’s majority owner when the deal is ultimately settled.

I find it odd that Chouest wants the minority group to be from out of the state. Considering that Chouest is a Louisiana native that has fought to keep the team in New Orleans, the desire for an out-of-state ownership group seems strange. If you have any idea why this might be beneficial (legal reasons? tax implications?), please educate us in the comments.

Another source said the ultimate number of individuals in Chouest’s minority investment group has not been established, but that they are being brought in to cover a substantial gap in the final purchase price.

"It’s not only the inner workings of that partnership that’s being created, but the vetting of those people with the league and everything else," the source said. "That’s where the issue is. It’s not an issue of George having second thoughts, or George wanting to raise the price."

Why wasn't this already decided? Why would the Hornets be set to announce the transfer of ownership if even the number of minority owners hadn't been selected? This all seems very, very strange. John DeShazier seems to share my disbelief.

The good news to come from this rather strange saga is that George Shinn isn't the holdup - previously, Hornets fans had speculated that Shinn had reservations about selling the club he had started himself, and either raised the price or decided not to sell. It appears that instead the stall is coming from the buyers' side, which should be easier to remedy.

The article starts to wind down with this:

Sources with knowledge of the Hornets’ current coaching search said that the unsettled ownership situation has not, and is not, expected to retard the process of the team’s search for a head coach.

I find this statement to be ridiculous. What coach would want to dive headlong into a situation where you don't even know who the owner will be in a few months? If I were Thibodeau or even Williams, I'd prefer to wait until this transfer was settled, and then decide if I want to go to New Orleans. And in the meantime, Chicago is calling.

With that utterly strange bit of news behind us, we're free to delve into all the fascinating details about how Gary Chouest's company, Edison Chouest, has been involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster:

"There’s really very little I can tell you, " said Lonnie Thibodeaux, spokesman for Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO). "Obviously, we’ve been very involved since the night of April 20. BP is a loyal and long-standing customer of Edison Chouest so we’ve been supportive of the operation ever since that night. Beyond that, I’m not at liberty to give any details about what specific Chouest assets are involved or precisely what they’re doing.


Nonetheless, Thibodeaux said, ECO has been involved in some way since the night of the explosion, and continues to be involved, though the company will not divulge specific information.

First: woah! The spokesman for Edison Chouest has almost the same last name as Tom Thibodeau!!!! This has to mean something, right? Oh, it doesn't? All right then...

The article really doesn't divulge much information. It's eight paragraphs of Lonnie Thibodeaux saying in different ways that he will not comment on the fact that Edison Chouest has been really, really busy because of the oil spill. Presumably, the company's involvement with the Deepwater Horizon disaster might have turned Gary Chouest's attention away from the coaching search and the ownership transfer.

Based on these two articles, I submit the unified theory of Gary Chouest. (Note: this is in no way, shape, or form a high-probability account of the proceedings. But it makes a bunch of disparate news reports make sense, and it's vaguely plausible. It's merely a hypothesis.)

So let's just say that Edison Chouest had a deal with BP to service a number of oil wells, including the Deepwater Horizon, for a flat fee. Were BP to incur the cleanup costs of the oil spill, that means that Edison Chouest would be on the hook for maintenance and cleanup as well.

Let's take a look at the timeline:

Monday, May 3 - News breaks that Gary Chouest and George Shinn had agreed to transfer ownership of the Hornets. The announcement of Chouest as owner would take place later in the week.

Monday, May 3 - BP announces that they will incur all of the cleanup costs.

Obviously, we were left waiting for an announcement that never came. And now Gary Chouest wants to add minority investors, something we hadn't heard anything about previously. Now if somehow the Deepwater Horizon spill caused Edison Chouest to lose an immense quantity of money, it would make sense that Gary Chouest would want to be spending less money on the Hornets, and thus need minority investors.

Once again: this is entirely rampant speculation and should only be discussed as such.

On to more credible bits of news: the Times-Pic profiled Gary Chouest and found him as mysterious as we did:

Chouest, however, remains the richest man in Louisiana that nobody knows.

He has steadfastly ignored all requests for comments or interviews, despite numerous phone calls, messages and e-mails.

We need a nickname for this guy. It's pretty funny to make all pictures of him boats, but this guy is seriously hermit-like. The phantom? The Bayou Bigfoot? Those blow. Come up with better ones in the comments, please?

The Times-Pic interviewed an industry competitor who had this to say about Chouest:

"He has built a tremendous company in this industry, especially in times that have been tough. He was way ahead of everybody else in this industry as far as seeing what the industry needed in equipment and building that ahead of time. He’s definitely shrewd. Everybody who knows him has a tremendous amount of respect for him, and he knows a lot of people all over the world. He’s a generous person, not that he’s shy, but he’s quiet. He goes to his own drummer. He’s not one who needs a lot of outside support for what he does. He likes his own environment."

No shocker, he's a fantastic businessman who has a quirky and quiet personality. This, however, is out of left field:

In the mid-1990s, Chouest and his wife, Carolyn, became the legal guardian of Clarence Moore, a Norco native, whose mother was gravely ill and father legally blind. Moore and Chouest’s son, Ross, first played at Hannan High School and eventually transferred to South Lafourche High School after a coaching change at Hannan.

The article, which you should really read in its entirety, goes on to talk about all the great things that Chouest did for Moore. It has a weird Blind Side vibe to it, heightened by the fact that Moore was an outstanding basketball player who played with Ross on a state-championship basketball team. Moore is now the head basketball coach for Kentucky State, and has nothing but glowing things to say about Chouest:

"He doesn’t want to get any credit or praise for it. It was all done with love and the kindness of his heart. That’s the kind of person he is. But in retrospect, it touches me to now think of what he’s done for me, and the position he’s put me in in my life because he’s definitely helped me become the man I am today, seeing how hard he worked and what he’s done for his family. It motivates me each and every day to know that it was nothing. His company was nothing, and he turned it into this. It’s like the American Dream where you come and you have a dream to start a store and that one store becomes two, then three and then you’ve got a franchise. That’s what he’s done. He’s made dreams possible, in a sense, by seeing what he’s done with his company."

That's some rather effusive praise. The Times-Pic also talked to Mike Fratello, asking him about his interview with Gary Chouest. Chouest has personally interviewed all the potential coaches, a practice that is apparently very rare in the NBA - usually the president and GM find the finalists and then present them to the owner. Anyways, Mike Fratello was impressed:

"I think he has a pretty good feel for the game as far as personnel, " Fratello said. "He’s a guy who has much more of an interest in the game than some others who might be going into it for simply the business standpoint of it. There are owners who got in it because they’re able to buy in and there’s something about it that attract them, or they just want to turn it around eventually from the business side of it. I was impressed with the fact that this guy has a real good feel for basketball.

So the picture of Gary Chouest is beginning to fill out - he's a highly successful and private businessman with a love for basketball and a generous heart. But there's still plenty of mystery - how much he's worth, why he needed to get the minority group, and whether he plans to continue his anomalous hands-on management style are questions that are still unanswered. The one thing we know is that we won't get many interviews from him.