From the New York Times, Nets Owner to Lead Political Party in Russia:
MOSCOW — The billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, was elected leader of a Russian political party on Saturday in the first foray of a prominent businessman into politics in nearly a decade.Not that things aren't fishy:
The event suggested the start of a new political movement in Russia, and was spoken of in this way by participants, though the party’s creation was apparently coordinated with Russian government officials some time ago in preparation for Parliamentary elections scheduled for next fall. Rounding out the picture, a pro-Kremlin youth group staged a noisy protest outside.The AY description
Still, it had all the signs of a political maneuver used by Mr. Putin before, of co-opting opposition organizations by arranging to have nominally independent but in fact loyal figures take charge.
And how does his venture into basketball get described?
In 2009, Mr. Prokhorov bought the Nets and a stake in the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn that will include their team’s new stadium. He has promised to pour some of his personal fortune into the team and apply his business acumen to obtaining players and improving the team’s performance.Actually, he bought 45% of the arena holding company and has an option to buy 20% of the rest of the project.
If he's putting some of his personal fortune into the team, he's also using borrowed money and benefiting from subsidies wangled by his business partner, Bruce Ratner.
The AP report
The Associated Press was skeptical:
Right Cause is seen as a Kremlin creation designed to lure opposition-minded, pro-business voters, while building an illusion of competition with the ruling United Russia party ahead December's parliamentary elections.Taking risks
Prokhorov said last month he was targeting second place in that vote.
President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday that Russia needs more political competition, but the Justice Ministry made a mockery of that only days later when it denied registration to a real opposition party.
The article quotes Prokhorov:
"Our main slogan, 'Capitalism for all,' is not true. That's not possible. Capitalism is only for people who like to take risks, who like to take this responsibility upon themselves. An intelligent, professional and fair state should give others social guarantees and support," Prokhorov said.But Prokhorov's fortune is based not only on taking risks but also on benefiting from insider deals after the fall of the Soviet Union.
And Atlantic Yards--wasn't that an insider deal too?