Skip to main content

In shallow look at charges against Prokhorov, the Times can't verify claims that his company is active in Zimbabwe

The New York Times, which pursued "the journalism of verification" when in came to the murky saga of Megan and Jeff, authors of a publicity-seeking (seeming) stunt in Madison Square Park, today throws up its investigatory hands when it comes to expected Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

The article (labeled more clearly in print as a Sports Business column), headlined Vetting the Nets’ Suitor Is No Easy Task, is written by New York-based sports business reporter Richard Sandomir, with no cited help from Times staffers in Russia or in Africa, despite the expertise and assistance they might provide.

While the article leaves lingering questions about both Prokhorov and the NBA's vetting process, it also fails to evaluate some information that would raise even further questions about the alleged Prokhorov connection to sanctions-busting in Zimbabwe.

No disclosure

And it fails to disclose the Times's relationship with Forest City Ratner, Prokhorov's business partner--he'll buy 80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena. FCR depends crucially on Prokhorov's involvement to move forward with the project and stanch the losses on the Nets now being absorbed by parent Forest City Enterprises.

Times Sports Editor Tom Jolly has said, in response to my concerns over a previous Times puff piece on Prokhorov, "If the story deals with real estate or business issues beyond the playing field (or court, in this case) and the Times's relationship is pertinent, we note it parenthetically." This should qualify.

Ignoring some evidence in Zimbabwe

Regarding New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell's claims regarding in Zimbabwe, Sandomir writes:
Onexim Group, the company through which Prokhorov is buying the Nets, last year bought nearly 50 percent of an investment bank called Renaissance Capital, a division of Renaissance Group. Quinn Martin, a spokesman for RenCap, as it is called, said it owned no Zimbabwean companies and that its only presence in the country was in stock research. Attempts to independently verify Martin’s claims were unsuccessful.
Maybe so, but the Times could have noted that the Zimbabwe government newspaper The Herald, in a 2/15/10 report headlined 1,000 Delegates Expected for Investment Summit, stated that Renaissance Capital was among several companies that "have confirmed their participation."

The Herald article stated:

Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Walter Mzembi told journalist at a Press conference on Friday that 10 ministers of tourism are expected from different African countries and more than 300 foreign investors are expected for the summit.

"The two-in-one event will showcase tourism investment opportunities in Zimbabwe and Africa at large. Projects exhibition will be pitched to profile investment opportunities in tourism and related sectors," Minister Mzembi said.

That sounds more hands-on than stock research.

Sandomir does note that Martin said the sister company Renaissance Partners was the division of the group active in Zimbabwe, but "various reports" pointed to Renaissance Capital instead as the purchaser of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe.

If "various reports" could be cited regarding the purchase, why can't they be cited regarding Renaissance Capital's alleged participation in an investment summit this year?

To verify the saga of Megan and Jeff, the Times assigned both Deputy Metropolitan Editor Wendell Jamieson and City Room Bureau Chief Andy Newman, who conducted "days of reporting and interviews."

"Parochial interests"

Sandomir notes that Pascrell has "parochial interests in opposing the team’s move from New Jersey," which is undeniable, but fails to point out that the NBA's interests are equally parochial.

While Sandomir reports that NBA commissioner David Stern said "multiple investigations had found nothing to prevent Prokhorov from becoming the first overseas owner of an N.B.A. team," he notes that the league has refused to provide any details on the vetting.

Unmentioned: Stern's performance on 60 Minutes, where he was asked, "Do you think he's a man of character?"

"I think he's a man who's passed a very tight security check," Stern replied deliberately, "and nobody has come up with any reason why he shouldn't be an NBA owner."

The difficulty of vetting

Sandomir notes that vetting a foreign owner is rare, and Prokhorov is the first "who has benefited mightily from Russia’s frenetic transformation to capitalism."

The Times does not ask the Treasury Department whether it has followed up on Pascrell's call for an investigation of sanctions-busting.

Sandomir concludes:
Last fall, Stern said the investigation into Prokhorov would be “very extensive, stringent, some would say, invasive.” On Friday, [league spokesman Mike] Bass said that generally, “it is fair to say that we do not routinely investigate the business operations of every company in which a prospective owner has invested.”

It makes you wonder what the league did not investigate about Prokhorov.
Rather than end with a reporter-as-columnist's lingering question, why can't the Times do some investigation of its own? It worked with Megan and Jeff.

Comments

  1. The Times is well on its way to becoming a parody of itself, and as with the NBA, it's clear that it would rather not learn too much about Mr. Prokhorov and his business dealings. Megan and Jeff? Gimme a break. How about Bruce and Mikhail?

    ReplyDelete
  2. New York-based sports business reporter Richard Sandomir writes that Prokhorov “has benefited (sic) mightily from Russia's frenetic transformation to capitalism”? That doesn’t make Sandomir much of “business reporter.”

    When the Soviet Union disbanded Russia didn’t convert to “capitalism.” Russia went from a system where the politically-connected elite that was privileged with special benefits under communism graduated to version of perpetuated political-insider privilege. In a 52-card pick economy, what was public and what was privately owned was scrambled and made (deliberately?) hazy with the politically-connected elite getting to cherry pick the benefits and best assets for their private portfolios while deliberately leaving the Russian public with the remaining liabilities. This is not a form of capitalism. Evidence that it is not capitalism can be seen from the fact that ownership of Russian businesses is only as and when permitted by Vladimir Putin. As has been well documented, this, not capitalism, is the economy that Mikhail Prokhorov has benefitted from. It is telling that Prokhorov now wants to come to the United States specifically to do business with Bruce Ratner. Looking at Ratner’s operation we can see that the United Sates is importing and adopting the same kind of system now operative in Russia. It is not surprising that Prokhorov has been attracted and wants an in to a system that must seem remarkable familiar to him.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…