Russia’s richest offers to fund Nets arena

By Amy Tennery | September 23, 2009 02:55PM

The richest man in Russia has expressed interest in buying the New Jersey Nets, offering to fund the basketball team’s proposed new arena at Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development.

Under the current proposal, metal tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov said that his holding company, Onexim, would provide $200 million in financing for the construction of the new Nets arena and that, in exchange, he would become the controlling shareholder for the Nets team, according to the Associated Press and the New York Times. However, the ultimate goal of providing construction financing, according to Prokhorov, extends far beyond dollars and cents. Through access to the team “Russia would achieve a position of equality among the elites in the world of basketball,” Prokhorov said.

Prokhorov wrote on his blog yesterday that he wants to become involved with the project hoping “that NBA technology can be used for the systematic development of basketball in Russia,” according to the English translation by a Russian-speaking volunteer with Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a non-profit organization that has been outspoken in its criticism of the Atlantic Yards project. See the full translation below.

The deal is still tentative, according to the New York Times, but Prokhorov is determined to invest in the project.
Still unraveling are accusations of corporate and personal impropriety in Prokhorov’s past. In a press release sent out yesterday, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn called attention to his alleged indiscretions, including accusations of asset stripping and of violations to minority shareholder rights, in addition to a 2007 arrest for alleged involvement in a prostitution ring.

Daniel Goldstein, a spokesperson for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, said that this new development suggests that Atlantic Yards could be in financial trouble.

“This has got to be a huge wake-up call for Ratner’s political supporters,” Goldstein said. “The only reason Ratner would make this deal is because he is in dire financial trouble. If Ratner has to go overseas to get major funding for the arena, how on earth is he going to finance the rest of the project?”

Prokhorov’s Blog Entry