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Some Still Insist Hornets Owners Could Sell

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Very informed sources say an offer by Charlotte investors to buy out one or both owners of the Charlotte Hornets is still on the table. Despite the team's overtures about moving to New Orleans -- which no one seems to seriously believe will happen -- sources close to the situation say that if the New Orleans deal falls through and the team gets stuck in Charlotte another year, they have reason to believe that at least one of the owners, Ray Wooldridge, will sell his share of the team.

"We think there's a difference between (Co-owner George) Shinn and Wooldridge," the source says. "Right now all that is happening is that Wooldridge is eating Shinn's losses."

The word on the street is that the $100 million which was put on the table by Wachovia, Bank of America and Duke Energy was part of a strategy not just to build a new uptown sports and entertainment facility, but to trap the team here for another year. The only way to do that was to throw up the beginnings of a doable arena deal with the understanding that the NBA probably wouldn't grant the team permission to move until all reasonable Charlotte options were exhausted. If the team lacks a viable alternative by the NBA's March deadline for applications to move, it will be stuck in Charlotte for another year.

"This is a sort of reversal of the tables on them because now the city has a $100 million deal on the table for the NBA," said a source. "Right now they are just reversing the squeeze the other guys have been trying to play with us."

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