The answer, it turned out, was yes. Barclays, the venerable British banking concern, signed a $400 million, 20-year deal in 2007 to put its name on, in, around, and throughout the new arena. And if you’re wondering why a 300-year-old British bank wants to partner with a New Jersey–Brooklyn basketball team, you’re not thinking like a Yormark. “Barclays has more than 10,000 employees in the U.S., but it’s still known as that British bank,” says Brett, who believes the Barclays Center will become a New York landmark. “They need to break out. They need something that will ground them here.”
All this might beg the question, what grounds the Yormarks? Discipline, an almost religious belief in “creating value” for customers, and unshakable self-confidence.
The discipline shows in everything they do -- and don’t do. Entertaining clients last season during a Panthers/Rangers game at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the brothers were surrounded by hot dogs, chicken fingers, and french fries, none of which they ever touch. Both say their health regimens are essential to working the way they do. “Eating right and exercising helps me keep my focus all day,” says Michael. “I can’t afford any lapse in focus.”
The drive to create value means Brett not only sells the Nets to his sponsors but also sells his sponsors to each other. He frequently meets with clients in the Nets’ locker room at their practice facility, which he says serves as an emotional and relevant environment for sponsor solicitation and strategic meetings.
“It’s not just about business-to-customers these days but business-to-business,” Brett says of the effort. “We want to use the Nets to create interconnectivity between our partners, between sponsors and companies who hold season tickets.”
As for confidence, it’s evident in the way the brothers handle criticism. Both have drawn fire for alleged over-commercialization of their venues. Brett has been dogged by bloggers adamantly opposing the Nets’ move to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. And one Florida blogger even accused Michael of unleashing “an endless barrage of advertisements so senseless and aggravating it ruins the flow of the game and chases away hockey purists.”
“I learned very young that you can’t please everybody,” Michael says. Brett is blunter: “I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but I don’t care what people think. I strive to do the best I can every day. You’re a target in this job, and I’ve accepted that. If people are praising me, I try not to get too high. If they’re not praising me, I try not to get too low.”
Finally, is there any real difference between Brett and Michael Yormark beyond what extensive DNA fingerprinting might reveal?
“I’m the sensitive one,” Michael deadpans.
Brett thinks a moment and then replies, referring to Michael, “He’s a little bit more fanatical about his workouts. I mean, he told you about his body fat, didn’t he?”