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Russian Billionaire Prokhorov Offers to Buy N.J. Nets

Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia’s richest man, offered to buy the New Jersey Nets and help move the National Basketball Association team to Brooklyn.

Prokhorov sent a letter over the weekend to property developer Bruce Ratner and other shareholders of the team, offering a “symbolic amount” for the Nets in exchange for financing the construction of a new arena in the New York borough, the billionaire said on his blog today.

If the offer is accepted, Prokhorov said, he’ll become the first non-North American to own an NBA franchise, putting Russia “among the global basketball elite.” Prokhorov said the deal only makes sense “if NBA techniques are used for the systemic development of basketball in Russia.”

Ratner bought the Nets for $300 million in 2004, intending to move the team to Brooklyn, where he plans to build the $800 million Barclays Center. The arena is the centerpiece of Forest City Ratner Cos.’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards development, which will include residential and commercial space. The project has faced neighborhood opposition because of its size and the commitment of public money to help a private investor.

Prokhorov, 44, said his holding company, ONEXIM Group, is offering to loan Ratner and his partners the money they need to build the Barclays Center, half of which ONEXIM would borrow from international banks. That loan should be secured by a “considerable stake in the arena,” he said.

Joseph DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, didn’t immediately return a call and an e-mail seeking comment. Nets spokesman Barry Baum said that Chief Executive Officer Brett Yormark was unavailable for comment. $9.5 Billion Fortune A bachelor and basketball enthusiast who is 2.04 meters (6 feet 7 inches) tall, Prokhorov has a fortune of $9.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine’s Russian edition. In April 2008, Prokhorov sold a 25 percent stake in OAO Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s biggest mining company, to fellow billionaire Oleg Deripaska for about $7 billion in cash and 14 percent of aluminum producer United Co. Rusal.

“We must change the model of basketball development in Russia using super-modern systems of coaching,” Prokhorov said today. “The base for such development should be a strong youth basketball league. This is what we’ll do if we close the deal.”

Source: Bloomberg

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More Resources

Commentary and opinions: a selection of excerpts from speeches and presentations by Mikhail Prokhorov