September 23, 2009
Not so fast, Russian!
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell has sent a letter to NBA Commissioner "Daniel Stern" — I assume Pascrell's communications director meant David Stern, and not the tall guy from "City Slickers" — urging him to thoroughly investigate Russia's richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov (right), who reached an agreement today to buy a controlling interest in the New Jersey Nets and nearly half of a project to build current Nets owner Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards vision in Brooklyn.
Portions of the letter follow:
"Mr. Ratner faces a December deadline to break ground on his development, or else lose much of his tax-free financing. Due to the large level of taxpayer subsidies involved in the project, and Mr. Prokhorov's background, this potential sale raises concerns.
According to documents released by the Empire State Development Corporation, taxpayers are providing over $2 billion dollars in financing and direct grants towards the Atlantic Yards project. This represents a significant investment and risk by the taxpaying public. Should this sale go through, a large stake in the project, as well as a majority stake in the Nets, would be controlled by a foreign corporation, a first for the NBA. As a result, these taxpayer dollars will be directly subsidizing the profits and business risks of this foreign corporation, whose investment will be reportedly smaller then the public's, instead of benefiting the taxpaying public. Especially during these tough economic times, this is, at best, a questionable use of taxpayer money and it is a question that should be explored.
Furthermore, Mr. Prokhorov's background raises questions about his fitness to be the owner of a high-profile NBA franchise. Both Mr. Prokhorov's business and personal history have come under intense scrutiny in his home country and abroad. I expect that the NBA will conduct a full and thorough review of Mr. Prokhorov's background and businesses before allowing him to purchase a majority stake in the Nets."
Earlier today, Commissioner Stern sounded thrilled by the deal, saying that "the NBA is growing rapidly on a global basis and we are especially encouraged by Mr. Prokhorov's commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia."
As others have pointed out, once Stern blesses something, it's usually good to go.
But fret not, Rep. Pascall. I'm sure Stern and his NBA lackeys will look into whether the wealthy Russian once supplied prostitutes to his wealthy frien— WHOA! Does Prokhorov's billion-dollar yacht have a special anti-photo force field to thwart paparazzi, too? These Russians are incredible!
Care to buy the Grizzlies, Abramovich?