Skip to main content

Prokhorov's debut continues, with launch of Snob magazine, but Men's Journal's Taibbi offers darker portrait of oligarch's wealth

Explaining billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's backing of Snob magazine, New York Magazine's Michael Idov (a Snob contributor) wrote in May:
Prokhorov's endgame is to buy himself cultural and intellectual credibility on a massive scale and to will into existence, and lead, a group of the globalized world’s Russian-speaking elites.
That day is on us. The Wall Street Journal reported 9/13/10:
Mr. Prokhorov this week is bringing Snob, a Russian-language, general-interest magazine that caters to that country's global elite, to the U.S. Currently distributed in Russia and Britain, it will hit New York Wednesday with an initial run of about 20,000 copies of its September issue.
And a Bloomberg article made a connection to the Nets, however strained:
“Russians who live in the borough and come to games easily will be an important target audience for ticket sales,” once the Nets move, Prokhorov said. “There is certainly a crossover here with the potential Snob audience.”
An ad in the New Yorker

Part of the campaign (here's a press release from the firm behind it), as seen in the advertisement at right, includes ads in English-language publications.

The ad appeared in this week's New Yorker, perhaps not coincidentally including an article (full text for subscribers only) about arts patron Dasha Zhukova, the girlfriend of oil billionaire Roman Abramovich.

(This apparently aims to improve on the disastrous marketing campaign for Snob in London, the first place outside Russia for a brand extension, where Russian-language ads succeeded in "perplexing Brits and embarrassing local Russians," according to New York Magazine.)

The Prokhorov connection

The New Yorker article includes a few paragraphs of observations on Russia's oligarchs ("[y]ou really need to think in terms of Napoleonic France") from academic and publisher Irina Prokhorov, the sister of Mikhail.

The New Yorker notes that Mikhail Prokhorov is best known outside Russia for buying the New Jersey Nets.

It also describes an evolution in philanthropy, pointing out that, while most foundations are funded year to year or project to project, there are a few exceptions, including the Prokhorov foundation, which "tries to bring culture to dilapidated industrial towns across Russia."

Taibbi's tough take

From the New Yorker article, you wouldn't get any idea there's a bit of controversy about the source of Prokhorov's wealth, but, in a Men's Journal article (not online yet), investigative reporter Matt Taibbi (known for his slashing take on Goldman Sachs), lays out the history.

He appeared on a Fox Business interview show with Don Imus.



"It's really funny--I lived in Russia for ten years, and one of the things I covered way back when was this scandal called 'loans for shares,'" Taibbi said.

"They privatized the jewels of Soviet industry into the hands of a few gangsters, basically, and I remember covering that story very well," he said, "and I remember how angry everybody was, that all this stuff that was public property was handed over to these guys who were friends of the president."

"And then, ten, 15 years later, I come back to America and find out that one of them has become owner of the New Jersey Nets," Taibbi continued. "Prokhovov was part of this company called Norilsk Nickel. They basically won a rigged auction for one of the world's largest metals companies... Yet this guy is a hero here in the States because he's tall and he says some funny stuff on TV."

Imus asked if NBA Commissioner David Stern looked into Prokhorov.

"They said they vetted him thoroughly," Taibbi replied. "I can't speak for David Stern, but this guy, for Russians, he's sort of a symbol of this whole era when there were absolutely no rules and public wealth was just turned over to a bunch of insiders. It's unbelievable to me that he's being celebrated as this great guy."

And, I'd add, Prokhorov's gaining the benefits of subsidies, tax breaks, and eminent domain that, had he been the applicant to the city and state, might have caused legislators to pause.

Comments

  1. ...long enough to calculate how to line their pockets from the new Russian gravy train.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.