The biggest winners in Donald Sterling's reported decision to sell the Clippers, other than the league's soul, may very well turn out to be Mikhail Prokhorov and Bruce Ratner. And here in Brian Windhorst's tweet is the reason why.
Several ownership sources said they expect Clippers to sell for well above $1B. "It may be closer to $2B than it is to $1B" said one.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 23, 2014
If the Clippers, with no arena and in the nation's second biggest market, are indeed sold for close to $2 billion, then the Nets valuation will be higher. And any valuation of the Nets wouldn't include the ownership of Barclays Center, itself seen as a billion dollar property. That's separate.
Nets executives expressed surprise at the Clippers' valuation, but the prices being paid for NBA teams are rising dramatically as the re-negotiation of the NBA TV contract nears. The Bucks, the league's worst team last season, fetched $550 million earlier in the month.
The TV deal, which will be bid in 2016, is likely to double the money NBA teams get from broadcast and cable TV as well as online outlets. It's expected to be so lucrative that the reported $500 million settlement the NBA paid out to the Silna brothers last month looks like a good deal. No longer will the Nets and their ABA brethren have to pay one-seventh of their national TV rights to the former owners of the Spirits of St. Louis.
For Prokhorov, in particular, a $2 billion valuation for the Nets would be a huge return on his investment. In September 2009, he agreed to buy 80 percent of the team and 45 percent of Barclays for $223 million in cash, the assumption of roughly $160 million in team debt and $60 million to cover team losses in New Jersey, including $4 million to buy out the team's lease at IZOD. If the Nets are indeed worth $2 billion and the arena $1 billion, that would put the value of his interests at $1.6 billion for the team, $450 million for the arena. Nice work by his Brooklyn management team, led by Irina Pavlova and Brett Yormark.
Just last week, Ratner's investment banker told Sports Business Journal that he was placing a $1 billion valuation on the team alone, hoping to sell Ratner's stake at $200 million (minus whatever Ratner owes Prokhorov.) Under terms of the team's ownership agreement, Prokhorov can match any offer Ratner gets for his 20 percent.
Lyle Ayes, the investment banker, said he will approach 20 perspective buyers and hopes to have a buyer for the minority share by year's end.
What does that mean if you're a fan? It may very well mean that the Nets ownership will continue to spend money on the product on the floor and on other investments, like the Brooklyn training facility, which is expected to be unveiled in a few weeks. That project alone is expected to cost around $45 million.