Nets’ Would-Be Buyer Portrayed as Enigmatic Russian Doll


Mikhail Prokhorov wants to buy the Nets; the Jersey Star-Ledger takes a look at him. The billionaire has “suspected ties to organized crime,” but that’s “not uncommon in Russia, according to Rusal’s own website.” His largest U.S. operation is the country’s only palladium and platinum producer, which he bought with the help of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the Carlyle Group.

This weekend the Times offered a more light-hearted take from Moscow-based correspondent Clifford J. Levy: “Oligarchs have their share of occupational hazards: heavily armed rivals, stupendously corrupt bureaucrats,” etc., but can Prokhorov face down longtime Atlantic Yards project opponent Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn? Perhaps Comrade Goldstein should hire bodyguards; “Things are still done in a very simple way in Moscow,” an emigre tells Levy; he does not indicate that the emigre drew a finger across his neck and made a “ksssht” noise, though he is told that in the old country the “main person in the neighborhood” makes the decisions and “the community has no say.” Marty Markowitz must be loving this…

Levy indicates that Prokhorov may be impatient with the “environmental impact statements” and “community board input” we New Yorkers require of business titans. “Can’t we get the thumb’s up from the local chieftain and get it done?” Also, Brooklynites “like organic food and bicycles,” while Moscovites “don’t recycle” and “smoke heavily.” We smell sitcom! Watch fish-out-of-water Mikhail take over the Park Slope Food Co-Op and use it to run prostitutes and nuclear weapons!

The Wall Street Journal also plays it for laughs: “The Russian oligarch will have to work hard to match the antics produced by his predecessors” in Nets management, who did all sorts of wacky things, like blow millions and produce crappy teams. “If there’s one thing that encourages the Nets’ remaining diehard fans about Mr. Prokhorov,” they write, “it’s this: He couldn’t be any zanier.” But seriously, folks: maybe Prokhorov will provide much-needed focus to the franchise. Russians have a way of making things more somber.

HoopsVibe says “fans fear the unknown” but predicts the Russian will bring “fresh life and resources to a stale franchise,” and compares him with another Russian sports mogul, Roman Abramovich, who has “retained the patronage of President Vladimir Putin while other businessmen were exiled or jailed.” The man’s a player! He certainly won’t end up like Ingushetia’s minister of sports and tourism Ruslan Balayev, who was assassinated in July. Or maybe someone else will.

A supermajority of NBA owners must approve the sale before it can go through. Image via Wikipedia.