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Grapevine: A Real opportunity

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With Realogy tucked comfortably into its new Madison headquarters, its former home in Parsippany appeared headed to the list of older, single-tenant buildings that have inflated the state's office vacancy rate in recent years.

But one source said there's actually buzz around the 380,000-square-foot building, including overtures by the chemical maker Ashland Inc. The company reportedly has shown interest in acquiring the site to house its division that was once GAF Materials Corp. and then International Specialty Products, before being acquired by Ashland in 2011.

With the help of state incentives, Realogy completed its move to Madison in May, leaving behind a somewhat cavernous headquarters that housed nearly 1,000 employees. The new building is 100,000 square feet smaller than its old space.

The global real estate franchisor did not own the property, and a company executive told NJBIZ last month that the landlord had put it up for sale. It could otherwise join scores of other large, defunct buildings that have resulted from downsizing and flights to quality by their tenants.

Showing heart during bill fight

Assemblyman Albert Coutinho was sidelined last week as he recovered from a heart attack June 21. But that didn't stop the lawmaker from keeping up with the play by play as his landmark incentives overhaul was dragged across the legislative finish line.

A source said Coutinho was constantly texting proponents of the bill throughout the early part of last week, seeking updates on the bill's progress. After months of delays, the Senate Budget Committee was set to take up the bill June 24, but delayed it until the morning of June 25, and then delayed it again until that evening.

From there the bill went for votes in the full Senate and Assembly on the last day of the session.

Start me up

Entrepreneurs are launching new ventures at a rapid clip, said a close watcher of the early-stage venture landscape, because barriers to entry have come crashing down. The new venture that once required $1.5 million to launch may now cost $200,000, because technology is cheap and the economy has put lots of good people on the street.

But, the source said, it remains a fiercely competitive climate for the startup capital needed to turn a good idea into a business.

"The problem is convincing people that you've got the solution. It's the same old issue — does anybody believe that this is going to be the solution that wins in the marketplace?" the source said. And it's not unusual for promising startups to leave New Jersey for another state where early-stage financing is plentiful: "Whoever is going to come up with the money will get the company to go there."

Big battle in background

It's been months since Rutgers went a week without being in the news, but its ongoing legal battle with the Big East seems to be flying under the radar.

The case, which stems from Rutgers' decision to leave the conference last year, has been mostly quiet in recent weeks, outside of letters that exchanged by attorneys late last month. The two sides are still waiting for a federal judge to decide whether to let the university continue its case, or grant the Big East's request to have it moved to Rhode Island, where the conference keeps its headquarters — if not thrown out completely.

The requests were laid out in March, but still have not been resolved, according to court documents. The case goes as far back as November, when Rutgers sued the conference seeking a waiver of a $10 million exit fee and the required 27 months' notice to withdraw. The university also is demanding its share of nearly $40 million in exit fees the conference is collecting from other departed schools.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

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