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NBA says it has no problem with Prokhorov's presidential run; will he simply be seen as the Nets' owner, or also as a beneficiary of sweetheart deals?

So, as the New York Daily News put it, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov announces run for president of Russia. Or, in the New York Post, Nets tycoon Prokhorov to run for Russian presidency. Or, in the Times, Billionaire to Oppose Putin in Russian Presidential Election.

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.


  1. "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."

    Wow, way to compare apples and oranges.

    The NBA owns the Hornets, at least until it finds a buyer interested to keep the team in New Orleans (and it appears there could be one) and in order to sell the team they need to make it palatable to a potential new ownership. So they needed to make a trade that was in the best interest of the Hornets team, and the trade with the Clippers was much more palatable than the one with the Lakers..maybe not short-term but long-term for sure, which is what could lure much more easily someone to purchase the team. A long-term project.

    The whole Prokhorov thing is totally different....from the way you speak you don't seem enthusiastic over the NBA having no problem with someone running for president.

    The owner can also be an absentee one since the ones making the decisions are the basketball people he hires. He relies to them.

    And, really, it wouldn't even be the first time a (potential) head of state owns a sports team. Silvio Berlusconi, now former Italian Prime Minister, has owned the AC Milan soccer team for decades, during his presidency included. His political presidency was pure crap but his soccer team was run greatly.

    Plus, Prokhorov wants to both run for president and own the Nets. Why forcing him to sell the team?

    Just because you don't seem to like Prokhorov doesn't mean the NBA should force him to sell the team if he wants to run for President.

    Why Prokhorov could make the league look bad if he gets elected? What the frick do his political decisions in Russia even have to do with the NBA? Russia and the NBA/Nets are separate things. I don't see why the way he decides to run Russia could make the NBA look bad. The NBA and Russian politics are two separate things.

    Going back to Berlusconi, he run the country like crap but his presidency didn't make AC Milan, his soccer team, and the Italian soccer league at-large look bad.

    Way to overblow things out of proportion, Atlantic Yards Report.

  2. Brave anonymous commenter, you didn't read what I wrote: "And what's to stop a politically minded owner from using his team, however it seems benign, to promote his political reputation?"


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