Jul 24, 2009

Again, for everyone still saying that sports are recession-proof…(i was at a function last night and heard someone speak those words), there are stories like this.

Current New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner is looking into actively selling the franchise, amidst poor gate receipts, rising costs, and mounting financial losses.  From Fox Sports,

The situation has been rumored and discussed for months, but Ratner’s camp insists the Forest City Ratner CEO who bought the team for $305 million in 2004 will keep his controlling interest in the team which last year suffered the NBA’s biggest drop in gate receipts, 29 percent. Nets ownership said they are seeking investors, not buyers, and have fielded all inquiries.

Sale or not, Ratner wants to maintain a piece of the team, though to a lesser degree. Indications suggest three groups are maneuvering as potential buyers with a group headed by Vince Viola, a Brooklyn product and the senior adviser to the New York Merchantile Exchange, emerging as the favorites.

The Nets have reduced their office workforce by approximately 25 percent. Most non-basketball employees have faced Friday furloughs in the summer, reducing their pay by 20 percent. Assistant coaches accepted significant pay cuts in order to keep all of them employed — rather than see one lose his job, the four remaining assistants on coach Lawrence Frank’s staff agreed to salary reductions equal to the cost of one salary. The Nets thus far have been mute in free agency.

And the Nets unloaded their highest-paid player, Vince Carter, in a draft night trade. Carter was due $33.6 million over the next two seasons so his $17.5 million for 2010-11 was wiped away. So it seems the Nets have done everything they can to reduce costs, which would make them more attractive to prospective buyers.

I think I’m safe in assuming that the Nets were one of the teams that accepted bailout money from the NBA back in February.  Pay cuts galore, low gate receipts, etc.  And here everyone thought they were just trying to free up money to go after LeBron James in 2010…they’re cutting money to make sure they have a team in 2010!

One thing that Ratner does seem hell-bent on, regardless of the owner of the team, is getting the Nets to move to Brooklyn.

All sources said that current ownership is adamant about keeping the team steered toward Brooklyn. The New Jersey identity is being shelved in some subtle and other not so subtle ways. Only road uniforms that say “Nets” will be used this season while the blue “New Jersey” outfits have been mothballed.

A critical component of the Brooklyn move will be the sale of an estimated $650 million in tax exempt bonds before a Dec. 31 deadline. The Empire State Development Corp. hopes to start issuing the bonds in September.

Again, I am hoping that Ratner knows something that we don’t.  The Nets are struggling in New Jersey, with stadium leases and everything else to pay off and now they’re trying to move to Brooklyn…in the middle of a recession…when they’re already offering payment plans on tickets and refunds if you lose your job? Something doesn’t seem quite right.

I’ve joked about it before, but if the Nets are really basing the entire future of their franchise on Lebron James playing in Brooklyn in 2010 or 2011, Ratner probably needed to sell the team yesterday.

Fox Sports —  Report: Nets owner explores selling team

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