Now there's nothing wrong with Prokhorov challenging the autocratic Putin. But the frame is off.
Prokhorov may be best known for being the majority owner of the Nets, but he's also (as noted by me last year, and DDDB today) the beneficiary of eminent domain, tax breaks, and other special governmental favor.
Prokhorov owns 80% of the team, 45% of the arena, and has an option for 20% of the project.
In other words, as the arena opening approaches, every decision by New York City and New York State to not demand more from the arena operators--more mitigations, more explanations, more traffic agents-- is a decision that boosts Prokhorov's bottom line.
Did I mention that he's also worth some $18 billion? He can afford it.
So too can his partner Forest City Ratner.
NBA: no problem
According to MarketWatch, the NBA says "a political career — even being head of state — is no impediment to owning a team."
That's very interesting. Wouldn't someone cry foul if, say, Mitt Romney bought the New Orleans Hornets--the league wants to sell it--to boost his career?
Owning a team has already boosted Prokhorov's image, and might well boost his career.
And what's to stop a politically minded owner from using his team, however it seems benign, to promote his political reputation? Say, a barnstorming tour through Russia. Or an effort to recruit support from Russian-Americans, and thus their relatives back home.
It's curious that NBA was willing to step in and stop a trade (maybe two) of Hornets guard Chris Paul. But Prokhorov, who's entering uncharted territory as an owner, is just fine. Until and unless he makes the league look bad.
From the Times
A New York Times sports reporter addressed the issue whimsically:
Indeed, as league officials noted, the Milwaukee Bucks’ owner, Herb Kohl, has been a United States senator since 1988, taking office three years after he bought the team.
But it would be unusual, to say the least, for a professional sports franchise in the United States to be owned by a powerful world leader. It could also pose challenges to the Nets. Prokhorov is already an absentee owner, attending few games and making rare appearances in the New York area on his team’s behalf.
The Nets need attentive leadership now more than ever as they prepare to move to Brooklyn from New Jersey while trying to build a contending team around Deron Williams, their star guard.
It seems unlikely that Prokhorov would miss a Kremlin meeting to attend an N.B.A. board of governors meeting. His political duties might prevent any recruiting trips to see Dwight Howard or to coax Williams into staying.
Or, perhaps, it would make Prokhorov’s mystique that much more powerful.