Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Forest City Ratner's ad in the Times: home court advantage?

The weekly City Section in the 4/23/06 Times was devoted to the 75th anniversary of the Empire State Building. Most of the editorial content concerned the iconic skyscraper, and advertisers were obviously alerted, since several of the ads referenced the building.

And there, on the back page of the section, a full-page ad saluted the Empire State Building, with a swagger, "See you in the skyline, Big Guy." The advertiser: Forest City Ratner Companies. The building in the ad: the Times Tower scheduled to open next year on Eighth Avenue across from the Port Authority. The rendering of the Renzo Piano-designed tower featured a relatively discreet "New York Times" logo above the building entrance.

Was there a discount?

A natural question would be whether FCR got a discount from the New York Times Company, the newspaper's parent company and partner in building the Times Tower. (I don't say the newsroom is FCR's partner, but I believe that the advertising department is more tightly linked to the parent company.)

So I emailed spokesperson Catherine Mathis to ask how much the ad cost, if there were a discount (and how much), and whether such a discount might apply to future ads from Forest City Ratner. (Wouldn't FCR want to welcome Frank Gehry's Ms. Brooklyn with the same fanfare?) And I said I thought the issue was blog-worthy whether or not there was a discount.

Her response, in toto: Forest City Ratner would be the appropriate organization to answer these questions.

However, FCR doesn't answer my questions. It seems a little fishy. If there were no discount, wouldn't the Times be proud to say that? But I can't be sure, so I'll leave it to others to keep asking.

The Times & Ratner's success

I should point out, as noted in Afterword B of my report, the New York Post reported (Liberty Bonds Key to Ratner, 10/28/03) that the New York Times Company agreed to guarantee a $100 million loan to help Forest City Ratner complete the top half of the tower. (FCR was to contribute $100 million and borrow the remainder of the $400 million needed.) It wasn't reported whether the Times Company actually followed through, but the gesture suggests that the newspaper company has an interest in FCR's success.

And an impressive ad touting the building can only help FCR fill the office space it has long been trying to lease, and make it easier for the company to pay back its loans. The New York Post reported, in a 3/30/06 article headlined Ratner Courts Top Times Tower Tenant:
It looks like Bruce Ratner may finally have a big tenant interested in taking space in The New York Times Tower now under construction opposite the Port Authority bus terminal.
The Post has learned the law firm Dechert is in the market for some 200,000 square feet, where they would move from 30 Rockefeller Center.

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