The recent sale by Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov of 49 percent of the team to Taiwanese-Canadian businessman Joseph Tsai was announced by the Nets as not affecting the team’s arena, the “Barclays Center, which will continue to be wholly owned by (Prokhorov's) Onexim Sports and Entertainment.”For the explanation of how this saves on financing and property tax, please see the rest of the op-ed--and the chart at bottom.
The shorthand dates back at least to 2012, when the arena’s developer Bruce Ratner was regularly dubbed the building’s majority owner, such as in a press release from the Barclays Center he controlled, or in a 2015 press release from Ratner’s parent company.
...The claim that the arena is privately owned matters because it obscures the difference between the arena and a related entity – the arena operating company – and conceals how public policies were designed to save wealthy businessmen Ratner and now Prokhorov tens of millions of dollars.
(This is a common error in the press; note that Mike Ozanian of Forbes got it right here.)
Helping with the Nets
Though it's beyond the scope of the essay, I'd argue that Prokhorov's partnership with Ratner on the arena allowed him, little more than two years ago, to buy out Ratner’s remaining share of the Nets at a bargain price.
Remember, Ratner and his company had 55% of the arena company to sell and 20% of the team. He couldn't just auction off each part, because the NBA wasn't going to approve that. So Prokhorov had big leverage.
Note the 12/22/15 press release announcing that Ratner's company would sell its shares of the arena company and team to Prokhorov, "Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of Onexim, said, 'Today’s deal brings the ownership structure of the Brooklyn Nets and their state-of-the-art home in line with NBA guidelines.'"
More recently, the New York Post reported--albeit with opaque sourcing--that Prokhorov withheld financial information to keep Ratner from selling to outside buyers. Even without that, Prokhorov had leverage.
And see the chart below, from a 2016 bond document, in which the owners of ArenaCo--companies controlled by Ratner and the Prokhorov--lease the arena from a state entity, which has a lease with Empire State Development.