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News » Ratner


Ratner


RatnerThe Nets are moving to a new arena in Brooklyn, and Bruce Ratner believes the remaining obstacles won't be a problem.

Ratner, the Nets principal owner, confidently predicted in a telephone interview yesterday that a blockbuster deal that includes selling the team to Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov was the final piece to building an $800 million arena and moving the team to the New York City borough.

Ratner sees no problem in selling almost $600 million in tax-exempt bonds by a Dec. 31 deadline and does not believe a pending legal challenge to the state's use of eminent domain to assemble land for the arena will succeed.

He predicted ground will be broken on the new Barclay's Center by the end of the year.

"I feel very good, actually totally different," Ratner said.

Months ago, experts had doubts that the cash-strapped Forest City Ratner Cos. and Nets Sports and Entertainment would be able to get Ratner's $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards Project off the ground with the economy faltering. In need of financing, Ratner started considering partnerships as early as last year and had Goldman Sachs start to look at potential investors seriously this summer.

Along came Prokhorov. The 44-year-old, jet-setting playboy wanted to bring the knowledge of the NBA to his homeland while getting a piece of a team.

Goldman Sachs told Ratner that Russia's richest man would be receptive to a proposal. Things took off.

"I flew to Russia in the middle of July and met him in Moscow," Ratner said. "We talked for about four hours over dinner and talked about this strategic partnership. We got along well, and it became exciting for both of us."

It's an odd combination. Ratner is a laid-back 64-year-old who is more a geek than a jock.

Prokhorov, who is 6-6, was an avid Basketball player in his school days who owns a share of a successful team in the Russian pro league. He is a fixture in glitzy European resorts and once was held in France for four days of questioning -- but never charged -- in a prostitution investigation. Even in Russia, he raises eyebrows for his penchant for private jets and a gorgeous entourage.

The announcement earlier this week that the Russians were coming -- to help -- was the last building block.

The deal between Prokhorov's Onexim Group and Ratner's companies was announced Wednesday.

According to the agreement, entities formed by Prokhorov's group will invest $200 million and make funding commitments to acquire 80 percent of the NBA team, 45 percent of the arena project and the right to buy up to 20 percent of the Atlantic Yards Development Co., which will develop the non-arena real estate.

Three obstacles stand in the way: Completing the tax-exempt bond deal, dealing with the challenge to the use of eminent domain, and getting the sale of the team approved by three-quarters of the NBA's 30 teams, something that seems a formality with commissioner David Stern on board.

Ratner is confident about getting the bonds.

"We feel quite good about that because the markets have returned," he said, adding that he is meeting with rate agencies and expects to have everything done within three weeks.

New York's Court of Appeals is to hear an eminent domain challenge to the project next month. Ratner said the project is on solid legal ground.

While he will be a minority owner of the team -- but own 55 percent of the arena -- Ratner likes where he is leaving the Nets .

"Doing something that ensures that this team is very well funded and is able to get the very best players makes me very happy, even though somebody else might have the primary decision making," Ratner said. "What is important is the team and not who owns what percentage. I always wanted to see this team do well."


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 27, 2009

 

 
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