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 NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -The New Jersey Nets' owner insisted the team is not for sale, shooting down a report Thursday that investors were being assembled to buy the franchise and move it to Newark.
``The team is very simply not for sale, and any stories that suggest or insinuate that we would be interested in listening to those conversations are flat out false,'' Bruce Ratner said in a statement. ``We are focused on breaking ground on the Barclays Center in Brooklyn later this year and building all of Atlantic Yards, nothing else.''
The Star-Ledger of Newark reported in its Thursday editions that New Jersey Devils owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek and Newark Mayor Cory Booker were trying to assemble investors to buy the Nets and move the basketball team to Newark.
People familiar with the effort told the newspaper Vanderbeek had met with Ratner, while Booker has spoken to an official at Ratner's development company, Forest City Ratner Cos. The outcome of each talk was characterized as ``open-ended.''
``There have been no discussions with any elected officials or business executives about buying the team or moving to Newark,'' Ratner said.
Having the Nets move to Newark would give Vanderbeek a second tenant for the Prudential Center, which opened in October. The Devils of the NHL also played at the Meadowlands before this season.
Barclays Center in Brooklyn is part of a proposed $4 billion retail and residential project that has been slow to start.
The Nets had hoped to move in for the 2009-2010 season, but there is no way the arena will be ready for the start of that season, Ratner said in October.
With a squeeze in the credit markets, some experts wonder whether Ratner can complete the project.
Devils president Lou Lamoriello did not immediately return a telephone call by The Associated Press seeking comment.
Speaking before an appearance with comedian Bill Cosby on Thursday, Booker didn't discuss his involvement in the discussions, but said he fully supported the effort to bring the team Newark.
``They would bring energy, dynamism and economic strength to our city,'' he said. ``We just think it's a perfect fit, so obviously we're doing what we can to make it work.''
The Nets have a lease with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to play at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands sports complex in East Rutherford until 2012.
Dennis Robinson, the sport authority's chief executive, said the team can opt out of the lease without penalty provided they have a new long-term lease with another building.
He defined a long-term lease as five years.
``We have a great partnership with the Nets,'' Robinson said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ``We'd love to see the Nets stay with us indefinitely.''
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Associated Press writer David Porter contributed to this report.
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