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Grapevine: Advancing Sanofi purchase

Bedminster-based Advance Realty is reaching about four miles down the road to acquire the former Sanofi U.S. research campus in Bridgewater, Grapevine has learned.

Sources said Advance reportedly is moving to buy the 1.2 million-square-foot property, which the pharmaceutical company opted to close in 2011 as part of a reorganization. Sanofi later hired Jones Lang LaSalle to market the campus, and has since attracted Ashland Inc., a specialty chemical company, to a 200,000-square-foot laboratory and office space there.

JLL broker Dan Loughlin told NJBIZ in July that the firm is marketing the Route 202-206 property as both a single-campus site and series of buildings available to single users, like the smaller pharmaceutical and biotech firms that are now driving demand. The complex includes about five R&D buildings that are about 10 years old, along with a group of older administrative buildings.

The Sanofi site is among several defunct pharma campuses in New Jersey, which later this year will include the roughly 2 million-square-foot Roche complex in Nutley and Clifton. Roche announced this month that it had selected New York-based Perkins Eastman as the master plan architect for redeveloping the 80-year-old campus.

Short-circuiting BPU?

BPU President Robert Hanna.
BPU President Robert Hanna. - ()

Sources differ on whether a pending nomination to the Supreme Court has affected Robert Hanna's work as the president of the state Board of Public Utilities.

Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, deputy speaker and chair of the Assembly committee on telecommunications and utilities, says it has.

Chivukula, a Democrat, noted neither Hanna nor his staff attended a hearing his committee hosted in February on the reliability of New Jersey utilities in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, though Hanna did attend a Senate budget and appropriations committee hearing the same week.

"That shows political motivations," said Chivukula, noting that the Senate votes on Supreme Court justices. "Anyone can observe that."

BPU spokesman Greg Reinert declined to respond to Chivukula.

Chivukula's opinion was not shared by another source, who said Hanna continues to do a solid job. The source said Hanna's nomination to the Supreme Court may have reduced commitments to out-of-state speaking engagements, but that's a small part of the BPU president's job.

Hanna was nominated in December by Chris Christie to the Supreme Court along with David Bauman to fill two vacancies. The Senate has yet to take up the nominations. Hanna, a former assistant U.S. attorney, was named to lead the BPU in 2011.

Merger in fast lane

A source with knowledge of the negotiations said an announcement about Jersey City Medical Center joining the Barnabas Health System should be made by the end of spring. A Barnabas representative said the negotiations are still in the due diligence phase, and would not provide additional detail.

Still seeing scarlet

The fallout from the Mike Rice scandal at Rutgers University continued last week, as Christie offered his firm support for Robert Barchi, while Steve Sweeney called for a board of governors member to resign and Sheila Oliver called for legislative hearings.

But hearings won't bring this closer to a resolution, a source on State Street said.

"To continue to keep a bad story going for no other reason than a fishing expedition — that doesn't serve a positive purpose for the state and doesn't serve a positive purpose for the school," said the source, a Rutgers graduate. "We need to move on. … It's time for the school to move on and rehabilitate its credibility and reputation."

Ryan Peene, another Rutgers alumnus and a lobbyist at MBI-GluckShaw, said he was upset to see athletic director Tim Pernetti ousted.

"It was a failure of process, like Barchi said. Unfortunately, I think the wrong guy took the fall for the process," said Peene.

Peene said Rutgers' presidents have historically had a connection to the university prior to their ascension to the top office. That wasn't the case with Barchi, who was brought on and chiefly tasked with completing the complicated merger with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Pernetti, on the other hand, was a Rutgers grad, and Peene said the AD understood how successful sports programs can boost alumni involvement and giving.

"It's going to take Rutgers a long time to recover, perception-wise, from things that could have been mitigated if confronted head on," he said.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.

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