Trouble In The Hornets’ Nest

Seven former employees of the New Orleans Hornets basketball team have filed suit against the team administration, claiming a scheme to manipulate numbers resulted in inflated attendance figures and deflated sales commissions.

The complaint, which is the latest in a string of lawsuits against the team, alleges the Hornets used revenues from single-game suite sales to buy large groups of inexpensive tickets. Managers allegedly would require sales reps to ask for suite payments up front, then use a portion of that money to stock the suite with food and beverages and the rest to buy seats in another part of the New Orleans Arena.

The computer system would show the suite as being complimentary, making tracking commissions impossible, the lawsuit claims. The scheme also may have falsely brought average attendance figures from 9,000 to 14,200.

The Hornets camp admitted earlier this year that it had inflated sales figures by taking tickets that owner George Shinn originally bought for charities and reselling them for high-demand games. Those ducats were counted twice.

The team is also facing a federal lawsuit involving 12 plaintiffs who claim it failed to pay overtime. Hornets reps are being accused of using intimidation to stop employees from joining that suit by illegally threatening firings and bad references.