Developer Bruce Ratner's interest in buying the Nets took
on a Barnum & Bailey flavor yesterday. The man who would move the NBA team to
Brooklyn posed with Connie Hawkins and donned World B Free's fedora, having
gathered a handful of the borough's former basketball stars to stump for his
The display at Junior's Restaurant on Flatbush Avenue offered more
cheesecake - "We are going to bring professional basketball to Brooklyn,"
Ratner declared. "We're going to really do it!" - than substance.
and New Jersey real estate magnate Charles Kushner, signed confidentiality
agreements at the request of YankeeNets when the team was put up for auction
last month, according to several sources. But behind the bluster and the lack
of bid details, the process is moving ahead, and people involved in the sale
say the Nets could have a new owner by the end of the year.
The three prospective buyers for the two-time Eastern Conference champions
submitted what are called "indications of interest" last week and will spend
the next two to three weeks immersing themselves in everything Nets. They'll
meet with team management, review player contracts and assess the team's
finances before submitting final bids. According to sources, it is believed all
three suitors are offering more than $250 million for a team Forbes magazine
valued at $218 million. Representatives from Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers,
the firms handling the sale, will assess the bids and make a recommendation to
the YankeeNets board of directors.
Once a buyer is chosen, 22 of the league's 29 owners must approve the sale.
Two people familiar with the sale said it appears the Nets will be awarded
to the group that bids the most.
would stay in New Jersey, but Ratner rationalized the players' reticence about
"I don't think that's what they said. I think they said they would demand
trades if they moved to Long Island," Ratner said. "Specifically, they said
Brooklyn was fine."
Actually, in Kidd's case, the word "request" was used, not "demand";
Mourning stopped short of saying he would request a trade. Both said they would
be willing to move to Brooklyn but made it clear it was not their first choice.
What Wang and the New Jersey group (Sen. Jon Corzine supports Kushner) have
going for them that Ratner and his business partner - current Nets majority
owner Lewis Katz - do not is an existing arena. A Ratner spokeswoman said the
Nets would remain at Continental Airlines Arena - the lease runs through 2008 -
until a new arena is completed at the Atlantic Avenue site in downtown
Brooklyn. Ratner said building a new arena would take three years. Nassau
County Executive Thomas Suozzi recently offered the same timetable for an arena
to replace Nassau Coliseum.
"We don't want to spend any crazy amounts of money or any additional tax
monies," Ratner said of his plan. "I can't really comment on how it's going to
be funded yet, but our goal is not to spend any additional tax revenues."
While Ratner and Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz professed that
all of Brooklyn would love to have the Nets, several demonstrators outside of
Junior's said there is no need for an arena and housing complex in their
"The concern about our neighborhood is so benign, it's malignant," said
Vanessa Carey, a Fort Greene resident. "We don't mind a stadium, but not in
that particular area."
Schellie Hagan, who is circulating a petition against overdevelopment as a
member of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, spoke with Ratner briefly
after the news conference as she and several protesters held placards and "No
Stadium!" balloons outside the restaurant. Hagan said residents are worried
that taxpayers will have to help finance an arena and housing complex they
don't want, citing the traffic and pollution.
"It's stuck in the middle of two neighborhoods: Fort Greene and Prospect
Heights. To [build] a residental stadium development would be exceedingly
unsettling," Hagan said. She said residents prefer a sports complex modeled
after Chelsea Piers.
Ratner spokeswoman Joyce Baumgarten said Ratner, who has developed more
than 6 million square feet of commercial and retail space in Brooklyn, always
has listened to the concerns of the community and plans to meet with residents
in the "very near future."
"If the people aren't happy with a project," she said, "it's not good for