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April 27, 2010

Russian Billionaire Is White Knight for the Nets

The New York Times
by Howard Beck

In an apparent effort to expand its flagging advertiser base, The New York Times is starting to sound an awful lot like People Magazine.

Prokhorov is relatively young, wealthy, charming, tall, athletic and adventurous, a modern-day renaissance man with an air of cold war mystique. He could pass for a Bond villain, or a double agent in a Tom Clancy novel. The NetsDaily blog has dubbed him “the Most Interesting Man in the World,” after the suave fellow in the beer commercials.

As an N.B.A. owner, Prokhorov may have a unique advantage: himself.

He will be one of the league’s youngest owners, its tallest (6 feet 8 inches) and, aside from Charlotte’s Michael Jordan, its most athletic. He is an expert skier, a competitive basketball player and an avid kickboxer.

His public image is undeniably cool, and surely appealing to the young athletes he will soon try to recruit.

In a YouTube video that was professionally shot and put to music, Prokhorov performs aerial stunts on a Jet Ski.


NoLandGrab: As Norman Oder points out below, though The Times fails to acknowledge it, the business partner of their business partner is their business partner. Which might help explain the teen-pop magazine treatment of Prokhorov.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Times Sports section buffs Prokhorov, ignores unflattering details; shouldn't the Times disclose business relationship?

Beck, with the assistance of two Times reporters, quoted the following sources in the article: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, agent Marc Cornstein, former CSKA Moscow (and Prokhorov employee) Ettore Messina, former CSKA president Sergei Kuschenko, and Russan sports journalist Andrei Mitkov.

Beck writes:

When a “60 Minutes” interview veered into sensitive areas, like his 2007 run-in with the French police over suspected prostitution, Prokhorov defused the tension with humor and an impish smile.

What's missing

Here's what's missing from the piece: questions about Prokhorov's business practices, including alleged sanctions-busting in Zimbabwe; Prokhorov's use of sports as a platform for business investment in the United States; and Prokhorov's belief that, despite the Kremlin connections that fostered his wealth, he's a self-made man.

Missing from the article is any disclosure that Prokhorov, slated to buy 80% of the Nets, would also own 45% of the Atlantic Yards arena in partnership with a Forest City Ratner entity.

Forest City Ratner was the New York Times's business partner in the Times Tower, and the Times still (intermittently) discloses that relationship.

Posted by eric at April 27, 2010 10:54 AM