I know a damn Grand Hu$tle when I see one, and when Jay-Z just so happened to be named an “owner” of the New Jersey Nets a few years back, my Negro Antennae went up. Not because I doubted the JiggaMan’s business acumen, but because the timing of the announcement and the team’s plans to seize the property of poor folks to build an arena in Brooklyn just seemed waaay to coincidental.
We’ve all seen the blueprint (no pun intended) before. Put a smiley, familiar face on the front of a ruthless corporation to make a not-so-popular decision a bit more palatable. Jay-Z was this face, a Brooklyn Boy done good. People would maybe feel a bit better about being homeless if one of their own was somehow profiting as a result. The Atlantic Yards project faced years of legal wrangling, but the arena is finally complete and the Nets will play their first games there in a few weeks. I’ll certainlystrategically plan a customer visit to NYC sometime this Winter to check the place out myself.
Good times. Unless, of course, you were displaced. Not so good times.
Anyways, given how much he brags about “owning the team” in nearly every one of his raps, I’ve always wondered just how much “ownership” Hov actually has. Turns out, he owns about as much of the Nets as I own Sirius XM radio.
Which is to say, not very much.
When the developer Bruce Ratner set out to buy the New Jersey Nets and build an arena for them in Brooklyn, he recruited Jay-Z, the hip-hop superstar who grew up in public housing a couple of miles from the site, to join his group of investors.
Mr. Ratner may have thought he was getting little more than a limited partner with a boldface name and a youthful following that could prove useful someday. But Jay-Z’s contributions have dwarfed the $1 million he invested nine years ago. His influence on the project has been wildly disproportionate to his ownership stake — a scant one-fifteenth of one percent of the team. And so is the money he stands to make from it.
Now, with the long-delayed Barclays Center arena nearing opening night in September and the Nets bidding in earnest for Brooklyn’s loyalties, Jay-Z will perform eight sold-out shows to kick things off. But away from center stage he has put his mark on almost every facet of the enterprise, his partners say.
He helped design the team logos and choose the team’s stark black-and-white color scheme, and personally appealed to National Basketball Association officials to drop their objections to it (the N.B.A., according to a person with knowledge of the discussion, thought that African-American athletes did not look good on TV in black, an assertion that a league spokesman adamantly denied).
All told, he has achieved a remarkable feat of leverage with his tiny sliver of the team, which was reduced from one-third to one-fifteenth of a percent upon Mr. Prokhorov’s purchase of the Nets, according to people aware of the deal terms. (Mr. Carter, who declined to be interviewed for this article, retains a slightly larger sliver of the arena itself — just under a fifth of a percent.)
So, 1/15th of one percent. Not 1/15. 1/15 of one percent.
[Editor’s Sidenote: The line about the black uniforms/black players is kinda odd, considering the fact that, oh, maybe 5-6 NBA teams either wear black road or alternate unis already, but anyways. Given the fact that the NBA has unequivocally the best diversity record of any pro sports league period, that’s just… a very strange thing to say.]
If there’s anything that really annoys me about Jay-Z claiming to “own” the Nets, it’s the assumption that he’s somehow done something historic, as if making a career as an entertainer is the only way to achieve such a thing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the first black men to own a pro team did it the old fashioned way: by borrowing other people’s money. If you don’t know anything about Peter Bynoe and Bertram Lee, please educate yourself before you listen to “N*ggas In Paris” again. You should also read that before you write the words “hater” in the comment box. Save us all the trouble.
That said, the article is a must read for anyone curious about the business of pro sports. While Jay doesn’t own a significant part of the team and seems to be more of a celebrity endorser than a power player, his ability to leverage his fame and illusion of ownership to further his non-basketball business ventures is well chronicled here. Good for him.
I do, however, wish he’d kill that “own the team nonsense”.
Question: Is Jay-Z’s “ownership” just a Grand Hu$tle, or a smart business move?