NEW YORK CITY-Forest City Ratner Cos. and the Onexim Group, controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, said Wednesday they’ve finalized their agreement for Onexim to acquire major interests in the Nets basketball team and Barclays Center, the 18,000-seat arena that will serve as a centerpiece for FCRC’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The two organizations, along with Nets Sports and Entertainment, signed a letter of intent on the deal in September.

Subject to approval by the NBA’s board of governors, the agreement provides for the sale of 80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena to Onexim, along with an option for Onexim to acquire up to 20% of the Atlantic Yards Development Co., which will develop the non-arena real estate that comprises the majority of the $4.9-billion, 22-acre mixed-use project. It is expected to close by the first quarter of 2010.

In a statement, Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of FCRC, says he’s “delighted that we have finalized our agreement with Mikhail and Onexim. We’re excited about the new partnership and moving forward with the Barclays Center and the Atlantic Yards project.” Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP acted as legal counsel to FCRC and NSE for the transaction. Hogan & Hartson advised Onexim.

Since the agreement was originally announced in late September, a couple of the hurdles facing the massive project have been cleared. The New York State Court of Appeals last month upheld a lower-court ruling that okay’d the state’s use of eminent domain to seize properties not already controlled by FCRC, and on Wednesday the state’s highest court ruled against the plaintiffs in another Atlantic Yards-related case. The lawsuit brought by State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and others sought to annul the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s June 23 sale of property and development rights for its Vanderbilt Yard facility to FCRC. A spokesman for the group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of the plaintiffs, says a decision on whether to appeal the ruling hasn’t been made yet.

Earlier this week, a bond sale to finance the arena was completed, with $511 million worth of bonds reportedly sold in two hours. The developer has until year’s end to break ground on the project in order for the bonds to qualify as tax-exempt.

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