Geopolitical pickle: Nets owner Prokhorov pursues unprecedented effort to move team under a Russian company
Less than two years after taking the New Jersey Nets over the Hudson River to Brooklyn, billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov is planning a longer move: to Russia.That also would ensure the Nets weren't subject to economic sanctions against Russia after the country annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
No, they won’t play their home games there, but Prokhorov is planning on putting the basketball team under the control of one of his Russian companies. The move would help Prokhorov fulfill President Vladimir Putin’s request that Russian-owned overseas companies be registered locally and pay taxes to his government. Prokhorov told reporters in the Kremlin yesterday that such a transfer would comply with the National Basketball Association’s rules.
"A Russian company will own the basketball club," Prokhorov said before receiving a medal for services to Russia along with other national sports officials.
"This (move) does not violate any NBA (U.S. National Basketball Association) rules and I will bring it (under Russian jurisdiction) in accordance with Russian law."
“The Nets are owned by Mikhail Prokhorov through an American-based company,” Michael Bass, an N.B.A. spokesman, said in a statement. “We have received no application nor is there a process underway through our office to transfer the ownership of the Nets to another company.”
Any transfer of ownership must be vetted within the league and approved by at least 23 of 30 N.B.A. owners. Prokhorov’s application to buy control of the Nets took eight months for approval.
An application to transfer the Nets to Russian ownership would be treated as seriously as the sale of a team.
“I would expect that the only way that would be approved by the league is an agreement whereby the entity agrees that all legal matters are settled according to U.S. laws,” he said. “The association has to be able to have legal recourse for any actions related to the franchise.”
Update: a response from Onexim
The Brooklyn Game reports that U.S. ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment, Prokhorov's company that owns 80% of Brooklyn Nets, released this statement this morning:
“Preliminary discussions with the NBA were held in spring, 2013 and, at that time, the League indicated its willingness to work with us in the event we needed to reregister the ownership vehicle of the Nets as a Russian entity to comply with the Russian law regarding candidates for political office. This is a long process which may or may not come to fruition and nothing is imminent. Of course, no steps in this direction could or would be taken without the full knowledge and approval of the NBA. ”