If Bruce Ratner doesn’t break ground on the Atlantic Yards project by the end of the year, he’s going to lose access to financing from tax-free bonds. He may have found a savior in the unlikeliest of places: Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
Though Ratner’s once grand mega-complex now resembles something closer to a stack of pancakes, the Russian tycoon may give the project new life. Prokhorov is prepared to pony up $200 million in funds, and, at six foot seven, is eager to be “the only NBA owner who can dunk.” His involvement would also create a natural way to market to the huge Russian population in Brooklyn if and when the the Nets move to the borough from New Jersey.
Of course, it’s not a done deal yet, and Prokorov’s involvement as the first non-American or Canadian owner of an NBA team may create a new cold-war of sorts. The Russians have a long love affair with the game of basketball, and according to the AP, are none too pleased with Prokorov taking his sports capital out of their country. After the “Big Red Machine” collapsed along with the rest of the Soviet Union, the Russians’ game hasn’t been the same, and their parliament isn’t happy that Prokorov would invest that money abroad when he could do so at home.
There will be controversy on this side of the Atlantic (and on Atlantic Avenue, too). Unlike Ratner, not everyone will welcome Prokorov’s money with open arms. He’s putting in $200 million, but he’s worth almost $15 billion. He could easily finance the entire Atlantic Yards Project himself. As New York magazine points out, Ratner has spent years setting up tax-free bonds. Why should the taxpayers of the city save financing costs for a billionaire Russian investor?