It was only a matter of time before Mikhail Prokhorov, bored with his newest plaything, decided to move on.
Or, more than likely, it was only a matter of time before Mikhail Prokhorov realized that he could sell his newest plaything for possibly 10 times what he bought it for just five years ago. Despite the team’s below-average NBA standing and record-high payroll counts -- the Nets player and coaching payroll in 2013-14 nearly matched the $200 million Prokhorov paid for the team in 2010.
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov retained Evercore Partners (EVR) to sell the National Basketball Association team he bought in 2010, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.
The people requested anonymity because the matter is private.
Nets spokesman Barry Baum declined immediate comment. Dana Gorman, a spokesman for Evercore with The Abernathy MacGregor Group, declined to comment.
Later on Tuesday, the Nets did issue a “well, duh” statement of sorts:
Statement from Prokhorov's spokesperson: "As we have said for many months, ownership is always open to offers -- that's just good biz" #Nets
— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) January 13, 2015
Continued: "There is nothing imminent in terms of a sale of any stake in the team."
— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) January 13, 2015
Recent valuations have pegged the Nets as a franchise worth well over $1 billion, but those valuations hardly come in handy when it comes time to actually bid on and purchase an NBA team. The Los Angeles Clippers were sold for an NBA-record $2 billion to Steve Ballmer last summer despite holding absolutely no bargaining leverage as the NBA was essentially in the process of stripping the franchise’s former owners of the team.
The Nets work out of the biggest media market in the world, they’re a fashionable draw that plays half its games inside a new and shiny (well, almost) arena frequented by celebrities. As with the Clippers and their Los Angeles Lakers counterparts, the team decidedly ranks second in terms of popularity to the New York Knicks, but that’s still a nice second place standing to own in the City That Never Sleeps.
Prokhorov famously promised a championship within the first five years of his Nets ownership, something the team (which played in East Rutherford and then Newark, N. J., in the years just prior to their move to Brooklyn) never came close to sniffing. The Nets did manage to squeak into the second round of a weak Eastern Conference playoff bracket last season, but they were eliminated in five games at the hands of the Miami Heat.
Worse, the team worked the 2013-14 season with a payroll that nearly hit the $200 million mark once luxury taxes and coaching salaries were accounted for. Prokhorov handed the reins and a series of blank checks to notoriously incompetent general manager Billy King, who proceeded to trade away heaps of draft picks (including 2013 Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, along with several future picks still owed to Boston) for a series of aging and ill-fitting players.
Former Nets coach Jason Kidd thought the future situation so dire that he left Brooklyn (and his adopted hometown of New York City) to coach the Milwaukee Bucks last summer – just months after the Bucks finished 2013-14 with the worst record in basketball.
The situation won’t get better any time soon for the Nets as they still boast a player payroll nearing nine figures (without taxes being accounted for) full of players that are currently untradeable. They will get to keep their first-round pick this season, as the Atlanta Hawks will likely finish with a worse record than Brooklyn (the Hawks own the rights to swap picks), but the Celtics own the rights to the team’s first-round picks in 2016 and 2018, with the ability to swap first-round picks if the Nets earn a more favorable selection through losing in 2017.
Little of this will get in the way of a massive sale, however, because the basketball end of things will have little bearing on whether or not a group wants to step forward to take over a visible and popular moneymaker. Mikhail Prokhorov and Billy King may have burned through quite a lot of money over the last half-decade, but at least one of them is going to make it all back. And then some.
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