Sink Or Swim For Nets

Are the NBA’s struggling New Jersey Nets enough of a catch to lure a big investor to keep the team afloat?
Forest City Ratner head and Nets owner Bruce Ratner seems to be betting on it.

Ratner, whose company is still looking to move the team to the New York City borough of Brooklyn where the proposed Barclays Arena and surrounding Atlantic Yards project have once again stalled, has been reaching out to investors, according to sources reportedly close to the matter.

“I would be surprised if it doesn’t happen fairly soon,” a Nets official told the Newark Star-Ledger. “Bruce has looked into several options. He’s had offers, he’s made counteroffers, and at some point in time -– probably by the time the season gets under way – something will transpire.”

Some of those options have included discussions with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, former Yahoo and Warner Bros CEO Terry Semel and current team investors, the paper noted. However, it appears Ratner is set on partnering only with investors committed to moving the team to Brooklyn.

But even if the developer manages to secure a new injection of investment funds for the team, he’s facing an uphill battle with an upcoming appeals court hearing. regarding the project’s use of eminent domain and challenges from New Jersey officials.

In light of reports that the Nets could go up for sale, Newark Mayor Cory Booker told the Star-Ledger he’s thinking of putting together an investment group of his own that could purchase the team to keep it in New Jersey.

“I’m discouraged a little bit that they’re saying they’re only going to sell to people who are going to stay in Brooklyn, but the reality is, we’re going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that team stays in New Jersey,” Booker said. “We need the revenue, we need the business opportunities. It really can become an economic engine for our state at a time when we need it.”

Representatives from Forest City and Empire State Development Corp. unveiled changes in the project timeline during a public meeting July 22, acknowledging that the development had been delayed by litigation and a “challenging economic climate.”

Forest City exec VP MaryAnne Gilmartin said that construction on the Barclays Arena is still expected to begin this fall, at which point the venue’s new design will be unveiled, according to the Atlantic Yards Report blog.

Preliminary renderings of the redesign, which Gilmartin asserted were “not intended for release,” have been widely panned by critics of the project.

The company must break ground on the arena by Dec. 31 in order to sell tax-exempt bonds to finance the Nets’ new home. A deadline for the venue’s $400 million naming-rights deal with Barclays, which an ESDC representative called “part of the financing for the project” during the meeting, is also approaching.