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Ratner exec: "We worried we would fail" on arena

Forest City Ratner

Maryanne Gilmartin is CEO of Forest City Ratner. In 2009, she was the FCR executive in charge of getting Barclays Center built.  It was not a slam dunk. At all.

In an interview with a business women's journal, Gilmartin.admits that she and Bruce Ratner were worried --petrified-- that they would not meet a December 31, 2009 financing deadline, the arena proposal would die ... and sale of the team would collapse.

"It was game over if we didn’t start building by the end of 2009," said Gilmartin. "The chairman of the company [Bruce Ratner] and I — only between the two of us — expressed dismay and worry we would fail."

Opposition to the arena had been strong and critics had taken their case to New York's highest court. Mikhail Prokhorov had agreed in late September to put up $200 million to buy 80 percent of the Nets and 45 percent of Barclays Center, but only if Ratner won in the Court of Appeals. After a hearing in late October, the court ruled November 24 that the state could use eminent domain to take control of the arena footprint, clearing the way for financing -- and finalizing Prokhorov's agreement.

"It was like a game of Whac-A-Mole. If you hit it on one side, [problems] would pop up on the other. We had to be in that game together," said Gilmartin in describing what life was like in the Forest City war room.

Things changed from that point on. The same day as the court ruling, a new state agency authorized a bond sale to finance the arena. Then, in quick order, Ratner contracted with a builder (November 26), the team reached a deal to move from IZOD to the Prudential Center (December 9), more than $500 million in arena bonds were sold out in two hours (December 15), Ratner and Prokhorov finalized their deal and Prokhorov agreed to personally finance arena infrastructure bonds (December 15), the NBA announced Prokhorov had passed its background check (December 18) and the state approved the overall project (December 23).

"A collection of small, everyday victories lead to an overall win," Gilmartin said. "I offered encouragement and praise every step of the way so people would stay with it. It’s easy to become a defeatist if you don’t stop and mark the milestones."

  • In a game of Whac-a-Mole, MaryAnne Gilmartin helped build Barclays Center - Hillary Burns - BizWomen