Friday, October 02, 2009

How the Prokhorov deal began well before March: Goldman banker Joe Ravitch left by then

Eliot Brown explained yesterday in the Observer how Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner got in touch with Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov:
His sit-down with Mr. Prokhorov came in mid-July, Mr. Ratner said, during the one time he flew out to Russia to meet with him. “We hired Goldman Sachs,” to search for investors in the team, Mr. Ratner said. Mr. Prokhorov “was in the newspapers, he was someone who was interested in buying a team. So Joe Ravitch at Goldman approached him, and then I flew over there and spent three or four hours over dinner with him, at his house.”

However, that sequence had to have begun well before July. Ravitch left Goldman in early March, according to Deal Journal.

(It's possible that Ravitch continued in some way to consult on the deal, but he wasn't with Goldman, which, as a seller of the arena bonds, surely wanted to remain the lead.)

The Richard Ravitch connection

Joe Ravitch, by the way, is the son of Richard Ravitch, a noted figure in New York's institutional firmament, who was appointed Lieutenant Governor in July and saw that appointment narrowly affirmed by the state Court of Appeals on September 22.

Blame the media?

Tatyana Bekova-Foley of Russia! magazine has some fun with the notion that only an unsourced press report put Prokhorov and Ratner together:
In other words, Ian Thomsen, who first broke the story on the Sports Illustrated blog, came up with a bogus, absolutely groundless rumor of some oligarch buying an NBA club. The rumor was almost ignored by the US media and barely reported in Russia. Prokhorov, however, issued a statement denying his plans to buy Nets. But the Nets owners liked the idea so much that they surprised Prokhorov with a $200 million offer, and Prokhorov accepted almost immediately.

It does sound a little fishy. But we choose to believe Mr. Prokhorov. We like to believe that a newspaper rumor can trick a mogul into buying something.

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