Brooklyn could soon have itself a new Russian billionaire patron, as Mikhail Prokhorov has reportedly made an offer to own the New Jersey Nets, helping real estate developer Bruce Ratner with a $700 million bond to move the team and build a new arena in the New York City borough.
Prokhorov, who has been developing an increasingly well known public profile as a Russian Richard Branson (see him jump his jet ski here), announced the news on his blog. In one translation of his statement, Prokhorov says he is interested in bringing the “technology” of the NBA business model back to Russia, to build a sustainable and profitable professional league, and to give Russia a rightful place in the world of elite U.S. sports. (video after the jump)
This move will put Prokhorov right up there next to Chelsea-owner Roman Abramovich as a self-appointed sports ambassador. It’s gutsy: the costs of developing Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn are enormously high, politically savage, and very risky. On the other hand, it’s good to consider the fact that some of Russia’s leading business people are getting involved in these symbolic investments in the West in which they are dependent on other countries’ economic growth, prosperity, and good, stable relations between governments. Alexander Lebedev’s rescue of the newspaper The Evening Standard comes to mind also.
Whether or not the performance of the Nets can match up to Prokhorov’s ambition is an entirely different question. Perhaps the towering 6’8” oligarch should take over as forward to see if the team can make the playoffs anytime soon.