Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How Barclays might renegotiate the Brooklyn arena naming rights deal

(An imaginary letter, of course. Yes, I do know that the head honcho for Barclays in this deal is an American.)

Dear Bruce,

Sorry to have to bring this up, old chap, but when we signed that Barclays Center naming rights deal in January 2007, well, we believed you. You said that the arena would open in 2009 and we went along with it. We even bought newspaper adverts to say so. Not only are we off on the timing, Frank Gehry's latest design doesn't look like that at all.

Frankly, we're a bit wound up.

We read those pesky blogs and soon recognized you were talking a fair bit of bollocks. The arena was never going to open in 2009. We put 2010 in our shedules.

Then we read those blogs again and learned that 2011 might be a more accurate date. Now we hear that 2012 is a more likely best-case scenario.

It's time to take another look at our contract.

As you know, the document we signed was contingent on your getting financing sorted out by the end of November.

To put it politely, things are looking a bit dodgy right now, for you and, frankly, for us.

When the press called us, we did tell them we were committed to the project, but we weren't about to answer any specific questions.

Yes, we promised $20 million a year over 20 years. And yes, we'll spend a bit on some playgrounds. Yes, we know you need that money to build the arena, if you ever get the go ahead from Inland--er, Internal--Revenue for that nifty scheme to acquire tax-exempt bonds.

However, I imagine you read that Wall Street Journal article, which referenced Citigroup's plan for Citi Field and also our deal: "Both banks, which have been pummeled by a freeze in the markets they depend on for funding, would be hard-pressed to justify such an expenditure today..."

Spot on.

We certainly would like to see our name on Frank Gehry's arena, and we know that New York is a unique market. But the deal just isn't worth as much right now. We are not unsympathetic to your plight--nobody likes to think their project is "plagued"--but this is business.

There's another reason, as well. We like Mr. Gehry's renderings as much as the next bank, but, really, this latest one is just too perfect.

No one will look at the arena from a helicopter. (Sir, are you daft?)

Also, the arena, as you have indicated, would open with only one, not four, towers around it.

That's just not cricket. People watching on the telly might think it's a bit of an eyesore. Frankly, we were a bit alarmed at the vision of "Atlantic Lots" from those revolutionaries at the Municipal Art Society.

The rest of those towers, we hear, depend on tax-exempt housing bonds--rare as hen's teeth--and the search for an anchor tenant. So the Barclays Center might be Billy No Mates for a while.

Frankly, we (like you, I think) prefer temporary open space rather than parking lots around the Barclays Center. (Can you give Mr. Olin something to do?)

Either way, it looks nothing like what we had imagined.

So we'd like to take another gander at that agreement.

Yours sincerely,
Bob

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