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NYT: Jay-Z & Nets have "written a new playbook for... strategic celebrity investor" (and generating unskeptical publicity)

"Jay-Z’s contributions have dwarfed the $1 million he invested nine years ago," the New York Times observes in a none-too-tough profile just posted, adding that "he and the Nets have effectively written a new playbook for how to deploy a strategic celebrity investor."

That's true, but the article, headlined With Arena, Rapper Rewrites Celebrity Investors’ Playbook, reinforces the mythmaking:
He helped design the team logos and choose the team’s stark black-and-white color scheme, and personally appealed to National Basketball Association officials to drop their objections to it... He counseled arena executives on what kind of music to play during games... He even coached them on how to screen patrons for weapons without appearing too heavy-handed. (“Be mindful,” he advised oracularly, “and be sensitive.”)
Except arena promoters didn't say Jay-Z "helped" design the logos, they gave him all the credit. And they used him at the groundbreaking to distract people from the fact that a Russian billionaire was getting the benefit of public subsidies.

Some mythmaking

In June, the NYPost reported that Jay-Z bought the first of 11 Vault Suites:
Five of the suites have already been snapped up, [Brett] Yormark told The Post.
Rap mogul Jay-Z, who is a Nets part owner and director of the arena, designed the suites and bought the first one — a glass-enclosed hive that stands to the right of imposing 15-foot-tall wooden doors to be emblazoned with a massive “V.”
The Times, however, says it was a gift:
Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, is benefiting handsomely, too, beginning with free use of one of 11 exclusive “Vault” suites, for which paying customers are charged $550,000 a year.
Street cred and publicity value

The Times reports:
Mr. Carter’s involvement frustrated opponents of Mr. Ratner’s development plans in Brooklyn who saw the arena and proposed residential and office towers as a subsidized land grab that could ruin the neighborhood....

“Bringing in someone who grew up in public housing, with a rags-to-riches story, who could identify with Brooklyn and African-Americans, that was slick,” said City Councilwoman Letitia James, a critic of the project. Mr. Ratner played down Mr. Carter’s importance in overcoming opposition. “Had Jay-Z not come along,” he said, “we’d still have an arena.”
Ratner's right. Jay-Z wasn't important in overcoming opposition; actual full-time Brooklynites like the leaders of BUILD and ACORN, signatories of the not-so-credible Community Benefits Agreement, were far more important, given that they brought people to rallies and public hearings.

Jay-Z was important in generating publicity, and in getting journalists/tv hosts like Rosanna Scotto to turn into simpering fans. And he's still generating publicity, as with this article.

Creating jobs?

There's a terribly backhanded piece of reporting here, quoting opponents as having "complained that residents who might have been wary of Mr. Ratner’s promises to create jobs, nonetheless trusted Jay-Z, who invoked his roots and insisted he could never support 'anything that’s against the people.'"

Well, were those complaints valid? Is Jay-Z for "the people"?

Has Mr. Ratner created jobs like he promised? No. (And he's still not doing so.) I kinda wrote about that for Salon last year, but that didn't get mentioned in this article.

As Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah wrote in the New York Observer in December 2010:
Jay-Z has become a frontman in the Atlantic Yards-Barclays Center project, which has been hotly contested by local neighborhood activists all along. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a 7,000-person-strong coalition that "is formally aligned in opposition" to the project, has described Jay-Z as being little more than Mr. Ratner's "marketing device." This seems loaded, but there is some truth to it. At the groundbreaking in March, Jay-Z brought the crooked-arm language of the left to bear, saying the project is "so overwhelmingly in favor of the people: the job creation, the housing that's being built." It was time again for shout-outs, and this time he dedicated them to "Brooklyn—we did it again," and to Biggie Smalls. Jay-Z is a natural orator; he can say much or nothing, and it not only sounds good, it also sounds heartfelt.
The world he lived in

The Times quotes Ratner:
And Mr. Carter, he said, appeared nervous about having to meet with David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner, who asked him to discuss his guilty plea to stabbing a record producer in 1999. (Mr. Carter described the incident, for which he received three years’ probation, as a symptom of “the world I lived in once,” Mr. Ratner recalled.)
Lived in "once"? Well, it was four years before Jay-Z signed on with Ratner.

Rocawear store coming

Here's some news: not only will the arena will contain Jay-Z's 40/40 Club, there "will be a Rocawear store, selling his clothing line, on the arena’s exterior."

That missing disclosure

I don't know what the Times's policy is any more: do they no longer feel obligated to disclose the parent company's business relationship with Mr. Ratner? Wouldn't that prompt readers to be a wee bit skeptical?

Update: The Times has typically, though not consistently, offered this disclosure:
The company, which was the development partner for the Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company....


  1. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Can you clarify the New York Times' business relationship with Ratner? Thank you.


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