NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A person familiar with negotiations says Hornets sale talks between George Shinn and minority owner Gary Chouest have reached an "impasse" and that Shinn now wants to speak with other possible buyers.
Shinn's preference is to deal only with investors who want to keep the Hornets in New Orleans, the person told The Associated Press on Friday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Shinn and Chouest have yet to publicly discuss the sale.
Shinn, who underwent recent treatment for prostate cancer, has said he wants to focus more on his charity work, his faith and write a book.
Chouest, who bought 25 percent of the club in 2007, owns a Louisiana company that builds and operates boats for the offshore energy industry. Chouest has yet to acknowledge publicly that he wants to buy the team or what his vision for the club would be. However, he did not deny that negotiations were ongoing when approached during halftime of one of the Hornets' final regular season home games, saying only that he had no comment at that time.
When Chouest first bought into the club as a minority owner three seasons ago, he described himself as a basketball junkie who wanted to do his part to ensure the club's long-term future in his home state Louisiana.
A woman who answered the phone at Chouest's business, Edison Chouest offshore in Galliano, said Chouest was in his office Friday afternoon but not available to talk. He did not return a message left on his voicemail.
A message left for Shinn at Hornets headquarters in downtown New Orleans also was not returned.
The new uncertainties about the Hornets' ownership situation comes as the club tries to find a new head coach. Jeff Bower, who took over as coach this past season when Byron Scott was fired, has moved back full-time to his general manager's post and is leading the coaching search along with team president Hugh Weber.
Weber and Bower both said earlier this week that Chouest and Shinn were being kept in the loop on the search and that a new coach wouldn't be hired without their approval.
Weber and Bower said they have spoken informally with the representatives of several candidates. They did not disclose who those candidates were, but reportedly have spoken to representatives of Avery Johnson, Jeff Van Gundy and Doug Collins.
Weber and Bower also said finding the right coach could mean waiting until a number of teams have been eliminated from the playoffs in order for the Hornets to have permission to speak to coaches with clubs currently playing in the postseason.