Bruce Ratner (born January 23, 1945 in Cleveland, Ohio) is a real estate developer and the current owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets.
Ratner first became owner of the Nets when he headed an ownership group that purchased the franchise from YankeeNets for $300 million. Ratner's group beat out an ownership group led by Charles Kushner and current New Jersey governor Jon Corzine. Ever since 2005, Ratner has been planning to relocate the Nets back to New York City, specifically to build an arena in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Barclays Center is the centerpiece of a proposed $3.5 billion sports arena, business and residential complex called Atlantic Yards. This project is being built by Ratner's real estate development company, Forest City Ratner Enterprises. The site of the proposed arena is adjacent to the site that Walter O'Malley wanted to use for a new stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early 1950s. O'Malley's plan was rejected by the city, resulting in the Dodgers relocating to Los Angeles in 1958. If Ratner succeeds in relocating the Nets to Brooklyn, they would become the first major professional sports team to play their games in Brooklyn since the departure of the Dodgers.
Ratner originally planned to move the Nets across the Hudson River for the beginning of the 2009-10 NBA season. However, he has had to revise his goal and now plans to move the franchise to Brooklyn for the start of the 2011-12 season. Although the arena is scheduled to open in 2011, along with the rest of the complex, controversies involving local residents and the use of eminent domain, coupled with the lack of funding in a struggling economy, have caused the project to be delayed. On May 16, 2009, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division struck down an opponents' lawsuit that sought to prevent the state of New York from using eminent domain to seize the property where the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project is slated to be built. However, due to financial concerns in regards to lack of funding for the project, the deal is in jeopardy of either failing or falling apart. Ratner himself has explored selling the Nets. In addition, the opponents plan to appeal the New York Supreme Court's ruling. A hearing for this appeal has been scheduled for October 14, 2009, with a decision that is likely to be issued no sooner than November 25. Ratner needs to break ground on the project by the end of 2009. If the case gets heard and held up in court beyond December 31, 2009, he will lose the right to tax free bonds to help make financing of the development more feasible. The bonds are the equivalent of roughly $150 million. There has been speculation that Ratner may keep the Nets in New Jersey and move the franchise to Newark if the Atlantic Yards deal falls apart. Nets CEO Brett Yormark stated in an interview that if groundbreaking did not begin by New Year's Eve, 2009, the entire project will be cancelled.