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September 03, 2009
Ratner seeking to be Huizenga of the north?
NetsDaily has posted a long FAQ on the future of the New Jersey Nets, whose owner, Bruce Ratner, has them up for sale at the same time as he's trying to move them to a new arena in Brooklyn. Ratner is reportedly looking for both a "premium" sale price and for the new owners to pay a "large annual lease" to play in his new Barclays Center, which he hopes to have open any decade now. Since Ratner would get to keep revenues from all non-NBA events at the arena while also double-dipping from new owners, prospective buyers aren't likely to go for it unless they're severely stupid: One "team insider" said, according to NetsDaily, "In that scenario, Ratner sells the team, you get control of the team and the right to lose $20-$35 million a year on the team. Key to the franchise success is the arena, not the team."
If all this sounds familiar, by the way, it's because it's exactly what Wayne Huizenga did with the Florida Marlins in 1998, sticking new owner John Henry with a terrible lease and an even more terrible team. The difference there is that Huizenga snookered Henry into believing he'd be able to get a new stadium built in south Florida soon (it only ended up taking 14 years), whereas a new Nets owner would be settling into a new home with an awful lease.
The FAQ concludes that if "it doesn't work" (without specifying whether "it" is the arena, the sale, or both):
"The team will be sold to whoever can pay for it," said an insider. "They could wind up in Seattle or St. Louis." A sports marketing expert agreed, suggesting that Brooklyn gets less and less likely every day.
That's a lot of unnamed sources, so take this with whatever grains of salt you have handy. In any case, though, it doesn't sound like Ratner has much of a coherent exit strategy for his grand gamble.