Earlier this week, we told you about the dire financial straits the Nets find themselves in, losing money at a pace of $50 million a year at last count. Considering the franchise itself was only $300 million when purchased five years ago, um, that ain’t good.
So in a move that’s bound to piss off anybody who has ever screamed “GIMME BACK MY COUNTRY,” even - nay, especially when it doesn’t even make sense in context, Russia’s wealthiest man is set to swoop in and make a deal for the team. Russia! That’s where the czars are from! But his decision to pursue the Nets means that his wealth may be a stroke of luck, not good judgment.
Russia’s richest man Mikhail Prokhorov is preparing an offer to help the New Jersey Nets build a new arena and sources close to him say he could own a large stake in the NBA club as part of the $700 million deal.
A spokesman for Prokhorov’s Onexim investment vehicle confirmed on Thursday it had been approached to participate in building the New Jersey Nets’ long-awaited arena in Brooklyn and was preparing an offer.
Prokhorov is considering issuing a bond worth $700 million through Onexim to help fund the project, one source close to the deal said late on Wednesday.
$700 million. At that price, he’d better own a large stake in the team; that’s over twice as much as the franchise’s purchase price just five years ago - and they haven’t been five good years.
But the lure of putting another team in New York City proper and digging into a basketball market that can’t possibly be satiated by just the Knicks - hell, Los Angeles needs two teams, and Angelenos don’t even like sports. Sure, it helps that the Knicks suck and promise to suck for years to come. But even if they were good, the Nets could still be, like, the trendy hipster choice of New York basketball fans. “Yeah, actually, I liked them back when they were in New Jersey. You probably hadn’t heard of them back then.” “No, I totally had. Also, this draft pick was big in Europe. I liked his work over there better, though. Really obscure stuff, you can barely find it on Youtube.” “God, wait till Pitchfork finds out about this team.”
Of course, that dynamic wouldn’t last long; the hipster fans would all flee as soon as the team announced its first sellout.
But we digress. We mentioned earlier that we wondered if Prokhorov was actually shrewd or just lucky. Russia was awash in money over the first two thirds of this decade as commodity prices skyrocketed. Prokhorov was wise enough to cash out on his assets before that bubble burst, though, meaning he got nearly $10 billion in wealth before the market had a chance to slice one of the zeroes off.
But if he were actually so shrewd, why invest in any franchise, much less a money pit like the Nets? The Brooklyn stadium has been a boondoggle to say the least, and there’s no history of this franchise grabbing a hold of that crucial NYC market. It’s not just the “New Jersey” thing, either; if so, the Jets and Giants would have folded long before now. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting in Brooklyn and the move will be a stroke of genius. Maybe. Or maybe Prokhorov would rather lose his money in American sports than in international commodity trading.