Friday, September 25, 2009

The Russian connection: reason for celebration or dismay? Has Marty been rendered "oddly silent"?

Is the Russian connection--the purchase of the Nets by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov--a good thing? Would it help bring new fans to the team? It depends on whom you ask.

Let's put aside the presumed improvement in the team roster that would result from an owner with deep pockets and genuine interest in basketball. Let's just look at the immediate reaction to Prokhorov.

"Big explosion" leading to new fan base?

According to the Courier-Life:
Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny, who represents Brighton Beach and Coney Island, and is a Russian-American immigrant, said the sale will probably trigger a big explosion in the local Russian media resulting in more Russian-Americans going to Nets games.

Do people really attend because of the owner?

NLG added: Just like the "big explosion" in Chinese-American Nets fans after the team signed Yi Jianlian?

With Yi, at least, the Nets could (and did) try to reach out to a new fan base. This seems more iffy.

Some pushback

The AP (via Newsday) added another note of skepticism:
Brooklyn's famed Russian enclave of Brighton Beach is only a few miles from the proposed arena, but for many Russian emigrants Prokhorov symbolizes everything wrong in their homeland — a smooth operator who made a fortune when Russia sold off its state industrial treasures for a song.

The Times reported dismay back home:
The purchase has already angered some in Russia, who say Prokhorov’s cash would be better invested at home. In fact, the women’s CSKA team recently announced that it could soon face bankruptcy.

Markowitz embarrassed?

The New York Post suggested Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, usually quick to offer a statement in support of the project's twists and turns, isn't so happy:
He's been the biggest booster of the controversial Atlantic Yards project that includes bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, but Borough President Marty Markowitz has been oddly silent since a Russian billionaire swooped in to try and save the project this week.

Political operatives close to Markowitz say he's red-faced over developer Bruce Ratner's plans to sell a majority stake in the NBA's Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov. The 44-year-old playboy would also finance the project's long-stalled arena, and potentially salvage the residential and commercial portions of Atlantic Yards.

"It's a combination of anger and embarrassment," said one operative. "He signed on to a magnificent Frank Gehry-designed Brooklyn palace in the sky, and now he's got a foreign-owned big hole in the ground."


Well, if there's an arena, there wouldn't be a "big hole in the ground right there" and, frankly, whoever's the owner of the team and AY would accompany decades of interim surface parking.

Daily News endorsement

The New York Daily News, the most reliable editorial voice in favor of the project, echoed statements by Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner and Mayor Mike Bloomberg that this business deal somehow represents "confidence" in New York and Brooklyn, opining:
Know where they have confidence in New York as a can-do town with grand ambitions? Moscow, that's where.

And know where they have the cash to make things happen in the capital of capitalism? Right. Moscow.

So along comes Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's 44-year-old richest man, to buy the NBA Nets, move them to Brooklyn and jump-start the critically needed Atlantic Yards development.

As humbling as it is that New Yorkers are too busted to get the job done alone, a hearty dobro pozhalovat - "welcome" - to this 6-foot-9 basketball fan who, with a reported worth of $9.5 billion, could have pockets deep enough to rival Michael Bloomberg's.


New Yorkers aren't too busted, they're just too wary. Prokhorov wants to get some money out of the country and gain an entree into the NBA.

1 comment:

  1. the deal represent Prokhorov confidence he could own an NBA team for a song, and Ratner's confidence that he had better drop the team and its losses before his clan in Cleveland tosses completely under the bus.

    we don't need a Russian billionaire in Brooklyn for confidence. confidence we got. Ratner and Prokhorov are the ones who need it.

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