Friday, December 08, 2006

Nets for sale? Revised ESDC document gives Ratner an out

There's a tantalizing hint in the revised Atlantic Yards General Project Plan (GPP) issued today by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that the money-losing New Jersey Nets might be for sale before the planned Brooklyn Arena opens in 2009.

The revised GPP, issued as part of the ESDC's approval of Atlantic Yards, includes a section on Transferability that did not appear in the GPP released in July.

It states, in part:
In addition, in the event the Nets professional basketball franchise is sold to another entity prior to the completion of the Arena, Project Sponsors may transfer their interest in the Arena to the purchasing entity or its affiliate, provided ESDC and the City are reasonably satisfied that such entity can satisfactorily complete the development of the Arena or if such entity retains the Project Sponsors to develop the Arena.

The Nets' web site describes principal owner Bruce Ratner as "[f]irmly committed to making the Nets a successful organization on and off the court." But the clause in the GPP suggests that, when Ratner agreed to buy the Nets, and the city got behind the effort, the development deal was first and foremost.

Update 12/9

A reader writes:
You don't think that's a highly tendentious reading of the relevant passage?
As far as I can tell, all it does is allow for the possibility of a sale. It would be extremely stupid of them not to have that written into the plan. It allows FCRC to basically hand over the stadium to whoever buys the Nets, if someone buys the Nets.


Well, I agree that contracts generally should contain contingencies. However, this passage was not in the GPP as issued in July.

Do you think they just figured out not to be "extremely stupid"?

By writing in that contingency--for a sale before 2009--without any accompanying affirmation of their commitment to the team, the Ratner organization seems to be backing off from that commitment. And we know that when they want to pump out press releases, they do.

Let's see what surfaces.

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