Growing up in the small North Carolina town of Kannapolis, businessman 'George Shinn dreamt of owning a professional sports franchise. Armed with only a love of sports, seasoned sales skills and strong faith, Shinn set out to accomplish this seemingly impossible task in 1985 when he initiated his charge to obtain an NBA franchise. He needed just two years to realize his dream. On April 1, 1987, NBA Commissioner David Stern called Shinn to deliver the good news – he had been selected as the first to receive one of four expansion franchises and would begin play in Charlotte, N.C. in 1988.
As the owner of the team from its inception and the subsequent 14 seasons in Charlotte, Shinn officially filed an application with the NBA on January 17, 2002, to move the Hornets to New Orleans, La., beginning with the 2002-03 season. Four months later, the NBA’s Board of Governors unanimously endorsed the Relocation Committee’s recommendation to move the team from Charlotte and the New Orleans Hornets were born.
Shinn’s leadership and resolve once again came to the forefront when the Hornets were faced with perhaps the biggest challenge in franchise history. In the aftermath of the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina, he was able to work with the NBA to secure the team a temporary home in Oklahoma City for the 2005-06 season. Under his leadership, the Hornets turned a potentially devastating situation into one of the NBA’s most uplifting success stories when they finished 11th in the league in attendance.
As a champion of the causes of education and responsible corporate citizenship, Shinn takes great pride in creating, implementing and supporting a variety of initiatives that leave a positive and lasting impact in both New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
In New Orleans, Shinn sits on the boards of the Boy Scouts of America, The National D-Day Museum, the New Orleans Metrovision Executive Committee and Loyola University. He has made significant financial contributions to organizations such as the United Way and served as co-chair for the fundraising committee at Tulane University. Through the team’s 12 Days of Giving program, Shinn and his wife, Denise, personally visited the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans to deliver gifts and spread holiday cheer, took 26 essay contest winners on a shopping spree at Target, purchased 50 bicycles to donate to underprivileged children, hosted 1,000 local senior citizens for a holiday luncheon and donated new shoes and socks to clients at the Grace House and Bridge House addiction recovery centers. For these efforts, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin asked Shinn to serve as Grand Marshall of the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. parade and then presented him with the Quiet Hero Award at a prayer breakfast that launched the city’s MLK weekend activities. On his birthday in May, Shinn spent the afternoon at University Hospital’s maternity ward donating diapers, bottles and other essentials to every mother who gave birth on that day.
During the Hornets’ short tenure in Oklahoma City, Shinn has reciprocated the generosity the team has received by reaching out to the community at every opportunity. He and Denise led a group of 75 staff members in a Breast Health Awareness march, an effort which earned him recognition as a Pink Tie Guy as a highly-respected community leader who has made significant contributions to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s goals and aims. The couple also joined Governor and First Lady Henry at a Habitat For Humanity workday and invited the recipients of the new home to sit with them at a Hornets game. During the holidays, Shinn spearheaded the team’s NBA Season of Giving activities that included a luncheon for 1,000 senior citizens and a shoe giveaway at a downtown homeless shelter. And when tragedy struck the OKC Police Department, he responded with the largest single donation ever made locally to a slain officer’s fund.
These examples, of dedication to making a difference in the community in which he lives and works, come from the core of Shinn’s personality and background.
As a young man in Kannapolis, Shinn worked in a textile mill, at a car wash and even as a janitor in a school that he would eventually own. Lessons learned in those humble beginnings would soon pay off when in 1975, at the age of 34, Shinn was the youngest person ever awarded the prestigious Horatio Alger Award, which recognizes “rags-to-riches” business leaders who achieve success while maintaining values in patriotism, faith and civic involvement. His purchase and development of the Rutledge Education System and its chain of proprietary business schools would form the cornerstone of his fortune and eventually lead him to real estate developments, auto dealerships, publishing ventures and professional sports franchises, including the Hornets, the Charlotte Knights AAA minor league baseball team and the Charlotte Checkers and Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the East Coast Hockey League. Although he owns championship rings from the Knights and the Bullies and a World Series ring as a AAA affiliate of the Florida Marlins, Shinn’s number one goal has been and will continue to be winning an NBA championship with the Hornets.
Shinn was inspired to share his success secrets with others and authored five books, including his 1977 autobiography “Good Morning, Lord!” (later re-printed as “The American Dream Still Works”) and “Leadership Development,” which became a best-selling college textbook. Later, a biographical account of his life and experiences as an NBA owner was told in “You Gotta’ Believe,” and he published “Introduction to Professional Selling” and “Miracle of Motivation,” which are still on the market today. His success in the publishing world makes Shinn a highly sought-after public speaker, especially on topics related to sales and motivation.
For a lifetime of achievement in business and higher education, Shinn was one of twelve to receive an American Success Award from President Bush in a White House ceremony. He also holds six honorary degrees in humanities.
Denise Shinn is the president of the Shinn Foundation and responsible for fundraising efforts and setting direction for donations and giving.