Grousbeck 'favorably impressed' with Prokhorov
(NECN) - As part of the process of approving a new NBA owner, Boston Celtics owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck met with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in recent weeks.
Prokhorov, 43, earlier this year was ranked No. 40 on the Forbes World's Billionaire's List with a net worth of $9.5 billion. He reached a deal in September to purchase 80-percent of the Nets' shares for $200 million.
"I just did meet Mr. Prokhorov last week in New York as part of the interview process and was favorably impressed," Grousbeck said in a recent appearance on NECN's CEO Corner. "For a billionaire, he's a people's billionaire. He's a regular guy with a whole bunch of money, seems like to me."
Prokhorov was once held in a prostitution investigation, but never charged. He would become the first NBA owner not from North America.
Twenty-five years ago, the prospect of a Russian owning an NBA franchise would have been an outrageous one, as Cold War tensions only began to ease with a series of summits between President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. But this is a different global landscape, one which may find the league expanding overseas in the relatively near future.
"Whether we add teams in Europe, South America,
In that case, would the league abandon its current domestic format in favor of true geographical Eastern and Western Conferences -- divided by hemispheres? Likely not.
"There may be a Chinese league or a European league, and then their champion plays our champion," Grousbeck said.
The case for international expansion is that growing the league's popularity, and therefore its profit capabilities, is limited so long as the NBA remains a domestic league. Fans in Israel and China may cheer for the Celtics, Lakers or Rockets, but the investment is not as deep without a team to call their own.
"The biggest growth opportunity for a team like the Celtics and a league like the NBA really is international," Grousbeck said. "Local teams have been globalized, but it's the same local team."
The way Grousbeck talks, the NBA could soon be fulfilling its manifest destiny.