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Joe Tsai will continue to pay arena workers through 2020; cost could reach $10 million

Minnesota Timberwolves v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images

Norman Oder, critic and chronicler of Barclay Center and adjoining Pacific Park, reports that Joe Tsai has paid out nearly $6 million to arena workers since the pandemic hit ... and will continue to pay them at least through the end of the year. Oder found the information in public documents provided by Tsai’s company which operates the arena under an agreement with New York State.

Oder got a look at the FY 2020 annual report from the Barclays Center operating company, Brooklyn Events Center, and found a number of details on the arena’s finances, including how much Tsai has provided the laid-off workers. The records are public because the arena is officially owned by New York State authority. Barclays is operated by one of Tsai’s private companies and much of what it pays the state is based on the arena’s profits and losses.

Oder quotes the annual report which notes how one of Tsai’s companies has provided a cash infusion to Brooklyn Events Center which in turn was used to pay the workers.

Among other things, the Company used these contributions to pay for the salaries and benefits of its full-time and part-time employees, despite the Arena having been closed. During the Successor Period [through June 30], the Company’s part-time staff received $5,986,090 in such compensation.

Tsai agreed to pay the workers, among the first NBA arena owners to do so, on March 14, three days after the NBA shut down because of the pandemic. There was no formal announcement by Tsai or the arena, with most of the detail coming from union officials who praised Tsai’s efforts. The original pledge was made for three months, then extended again in June. Now, comes the latest extension — again with no formal announcement, just a notation in the annual report, an obscure document the operating company provides arena bondholders.

On September 25, 2020, the Company notified the collective bargaining units representing its part-time workers that, due to the sustained impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, it will be extending payments to the Company’s part-time employees until the final work week of calendar year 2020.

Oder did some quick math and figured that as long as payments remain consistent, the cost to Tsai through the end of the year will amount to just short of $10 million.

“Over the remaining six months, or 182 days, assuming the same rate of pay—not a given, as noted below—the arena would spend nearly $10 million, or $9,995,122.75,” noted Oder.

There was no indication whether benefit will end of December 31. As Oder noted, other documents seem to indicate the decision is made on a quarter basis.

Oder also noted how Tsai has been filling the gap for all the lost revenue caused by cancellations of everything from NBA games, NHL matches, concerts and family shows.

“The document also discloses that billionaire Joe Tsai, who owns a set of interlocking companies—B-Cubed Arena owns Brooklyn Arena, which owns Brooklyn Events Center—has contributed funds to bolster the arena,” wrote Oder.

Oder noted that, not surprisingly, the arena is losing money. However, he added that prior to the pandemic, Tsai’s company believed that with a restructure of the Nets lease and an end to the lopsided agreement between Barclays and the Islanders, the arena was ready to make money.

The arena and NBA team were sold to Tsai a little more than a year ago for a price reported to be between $3.3 billion and $3.5 billion, according to reports. One league source told NetsDaily the number was $3.4 billion, the most ever paid for a North American sports team and arena.

The Nets had no comment on Oder’s reports.

Beyond the payments to the arena workers, Tsai and his wife, Clara Wu Tsai, have also provided tens of millions of dollars to COVID relief efforts, donating 2,000 ventilators, 1.5 million N95 respirators, 1.45 million surgical masks and 170,000 medical goggles to the New York/New Jersey area at the height of the pandemic in April, then supplemented that with donations to hospitals in San Diego and Detroit. Before the pandemic struck the US, Tsai also provided millions in funding to Chinese anti-COVID efforts.