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Two letters on the Times Magazine's Mikhail Prokhorov cover story

So, how many letters did the New York Times Magazine publish today regarding its generous profile two weeks ago of Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov?

One, and it was an attaboy.

Letter: The Playboy and His Power Games
Chip Brown’s article about the New Jersey Nets’ owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, was fascinating, but it omitted a strand of the billionaire Russian’s life story that could have been illuminating. In addition to his roles in banking and industry, Prokhorov has been president of the Russian Biathlon Union for over two years, and he is credited with turning around a moribund organization tarnished by doping. It would have been interesting to read more about Prokhorov’s work in that sport, since the Nets seem to be in need of a similar reversal.

Williamstown, Mass.
My letter

Here's a letter they didn't publish:
The profile of Russian billionaire and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov ("An Oligarch of Our Own," Oct. 31) fails to answer who, exactly, is "us" (other than a Nets fan who was unwilling to reveal his name).

As to whether Prokhorov has "the cash to save a reeling franchise," consider--unmentioned in the article--that the oligarch has more to spend thanks to the subsidies, tax breaks, and eminent domain for the new arena (of which he owns 45%), which also will raise the value of the team. Had Prokhorov been the team's owner before the Atlantic Yards project was approved, it would have been much tougher to have justified all that governmental help.

The article suggests that Prokhorov, in trying to build a winning basketball team, faces heavy "pressure to live up to expectations." Prokhorov bought the team in order to become a household name in North America and open up investment opportunities. The Times's mostly uncritical article has already helped him live up to those expectations.

Norman Oder

The writer, author of the Atlantic Yards Report blog, is writing a book about the project. In June 2010, he wrote an essay for the Times, "A Russian Billionaire, the Nets and Sweetheart Deals."


  1. From: The New York Times
    To: Norman Oder

    Dear Mr. Oder:

    Unfortunately, your insistence on peering at the seamy underbelly of subsidies, tax breaks, eminent domain, Bruce Ratner, the ESDC, Brett Yormark, Albany, Marty Markowitz, Mikhail Prokhorov, yada yada yada, does not comport with our official view of Atlantic Yards.

    So we went with the letter from the guy in Massachusetts who couldn't even point out Downtown Brooklyn, er, Prospect Heights, on a map, and who wants to hear more about a sport followed by exactly three Americans.


    Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.

  2. I wouldn't exactly call it an "attaboy"--I actually pointed out a shortcoming of the piece.
    For the record, I could not point out Prospect Heights on the map, although I could fairly easily make out downtown Brooklyn. And biathlon has a small but devoted following that is definitely larger than three individuals.

  3. I dunno, to me "fascinating" sounds like an "attaboy."


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