At this point the speculation surrounding LeBron James leaving the Cavs has become folklore; like Bigfoot sightings, or Chad Ochocinco shutting up for five minutes. But if there’s one man who can lure The King from his Clevelandly realm, it’s the man below; a Russian billionaire who once played professional hoops and flips jet skis to relax. It’s like I have a twin!
Who is Mikhail Prokhorov? Think of the New Jersey Nets as owned by Goldfinger, or the alternate James Bond villain of your choice. Russia’s richest man, who made his $9 billion fortune mainly in nickel and gold production and nanotechnology development, has been called Russia’s most eligible bachelor. He’s fond of traveling the world in his private jet with beautiful women in tow, and was once arrested in an investigation of a high-end prostitution ring.
Prokhorov on Wednesday made an offer to buy a controlling interest in the Nets and half of the project to build a new arena in Brooklyn. If he passes the NBA vetting process (a grueling process not unlike getting a library card), he’ll become the league’s first non-North American owner, and will invest nearly $700 million into the franchise.
And suddenly your love affair with Mark Cuban seems so childish.
YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski has a fantastic column up today examining the whole Russian billionaire/LeBron James conundrum, and how other NBA owners should be shaking in their mostly-empty suits at the prospect of this guy moving in.
“He has the personality, the charisma and the wherewithal to reach any of the league’s young stars on a level that I don’t think other owners can,” David Vanterpool said by phone Wednesday. “He likes to go out. He likes to fly to Europe and go to the most exclusive resorts. He’s going to connect with these guys.
“I would think right now that a lot of people in the NBA would be scared to death of this guy, if for nothing else the unknown of what he might do here.”
This Russian is liable to treat $70 million luxury-tax payments like drops in the Jersey Turnpike toll buckets.
“If he sees something as a reasonable, smart move, then money won’t be an issue,” Vanterpool said. “I don’t see the luxury tax affecting him. You’re talking about a billionaire who will take a two-week vacation that ends up costing him $10 million. He’ll do whatever it takes to win, and win big.”
Of course money doesn’t necessarily mean championships, although it never hurts (see AL East standings). I’d like to see Prokhorov in the league just so that there are some photos available of him standing next to David Stern. The Russian is a 6-foot-7 handsome jet-setter; he couldn’t be more the commissioner’s opposite number. It would be like that photo of Elvis and Nixon.
And his money could serve to attract more than hot babes:
LeBron James used Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert’s connections to get him into the prestigious Allen & Company billionaire conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, this summer, a gathering of 260 of America’s richest and most powerful people. As much as James wants to win championships, he also wants an unprecedented global brand. There’s still a good chance that he’ll pursue it with his hometown Cavaliers, but the odds tilted a touch on Wednesday, when a $9 billion man pledged $700 million to a fledgling NBA franchise.
GRENOBLE, France - One of Russia’s wealthiest men, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, was taken into custody by French police in a crackdown on a suspected prostitution ring at a swank Alpine ski resort, officials said Thursday.
It’s gonna be a party.