Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Just when you think it can't get any weirder, it does": catching up on the "Anatomy of a Shady Deal" series re EB-5 visas for Chinese investors

In The Civilians' play with music, IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards (which closed yesterday, but perhaps will be revived), one character, remarking on the surprising entrance of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov as owner of the Nets, observes, "Just when you think it can't get any weirder, it does."

Still.

The next level--brutally weird--involves the effort to raise $249 million from Chinese investors seeking green cards.

My "Anatomy of a Shady Deal" series has gotten nods from New York Magazine's Daily Intel, the New York Daily News's Sports I-Team blog, Prospect Heights Patch, and the New York Times's City Room blog, and I also summarized it in the Huffington Post.

No one's followed up with their own reporting, but the story's not going away.

Part 1 concerned the seven-year extension available on Phase 1 of the project should Forest City Ratner not repay the EB-5 loan. Part 2 estimated the developer could save at least $191 million. Part 3 examined the sales effort in China, with the arena front and center, even though it's already funded.

Part 4 reported on claims made in China, on video and in person, by public officials supporting the project. Part 5 concerned the value of the development rights, contrasted with those in last year's deal for the Vanderbilt Yard. Part 6 described reasons to think the development rights ar
e overvalued. Part 7 explained why China is such a popular target for those seeking EB-5 investors. Part 8 provided another reason why the Nets played exhibition games in China in October.

The series will continue this week.

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