Originally created 08/08/03

Report: Four groups interested in buying Nets



NEWARK, N.J. -- The owners of the New Jersey Nets are talking to at least four groups about selling the team, and two of the potential buyers would move the team to New York, according to a published report.

The Star-Ledger of Newark reported in Thursday's editions that YankeeNets, the sports conglomerate that also owns the New York Yankees baseball team and the New Jersey Devils hockey team, would break up the organization and sell off the Nets.

"You can't really buy the Nets until they decide what they are going to do," Donald Unger, a former Nets owner who has expressed interest in repurchasing the team, told the newspaper. "I don't think anybody knows exactly what is going to happen."

Partners in YankeeNets are trying to figure out how to break up the company before Sept. 1, when top investors in the company must pay former Devils owner John McMullen $35 million for the final 20 percent of the Stanley Cup champions, the newspaper reported.

The newspaper identified four potential purchasers. Bruce Ratner, president of the New York development firm Forest City-Ratner, would move the Nets to Brooklyn to a proposed arena above the Long Island Railroad Terminal. Philanthropist Lewis Katz, the chairman of the Nets, would become a partner with Ratner in the venture, the newspaper reported. Ratner's spokeswoman had no immediate comment Thursday.

Charles Wang, owner of the Islanders and the retired chairman of Computer Associates, would move the Nets back to their original home on Long Island.

"We're not going to comment on the specifics. However, it's no secret Charles remains very interested in bringing an NBA franchise back to Long Island," said Cris Botta, a spokesman for Wang.

The paper also said Alan Landis and David Gerstein, minority investors in YankeeNets, want to take control of the Nets. They did not return phone calls from the paper seeking comment, and Gerstein did not immediately return a call Thursday from The Associated Press.

Unger, a New Jersey financier and a former member of the Nets ownership group, has tried to buy the team twice before and favors keeping the Nets at the Meadowlands in a renovated arena.

Dan Klores, a spokesman for the Nets ownership group, said the reported purchasers "are just rumors," and declined further comment. He would not say if the team is for sale.

Any move of the team would have to be approved by the NBA's board of governors, which would take into account territorial concerns of the New York Knicks, a league spokeswoman said.