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May 21, 2010


The Brooklyn Ink
by Vinnie Rotondaro

Mikhail Prokhorov's big local exclusive goes to a 28-year-old who just graduated from journalism school.

On Wednesday I met with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the recently minted owner of the New Jersey Nets, at the Clover Club, a bar in Carroll Gardens. Prokhorov is the first-ever foreign owner of an NBA team. He never drinks. “Maybe a glass of red wine sometimes,” he said, “with dinner.” So we sipped cups of English Breakfast tea instead. Below is our conversation, which has been edited down for the sake of brevity, and clarity.

Mr. Prokhorov, I want to get a better sense of who you are and where you come from.

(Prokhorov fools as if the question is out of line. He pretends to get up and leave)

Interview over?

(We huff and smile)

Where were you born?

I was born in Moscow.

A lot of Brooklynites are excited about this. They want a professional team. They think back to the days of the Dodgers. But other Brooklynites don’t like this. How aware were you of this when you were thinking about the project?

I know that nobody likes changes. I am very conservative with my social activity. I’m very flexible in my office and my businesses. But very stubborn in my social life. I think as soon the team comes, it will be a really fascinating story.

But how much attention did you pay to the resistance? Locals fought it for years. Whole groups formed against it.

I understand their concerns. But I think Bruce [Ratner] did a great job to reach a good agreement with the tenants—


NoLandGrab: Yes, great job indeed.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Prokhorov gets questioned about Brooklyn by a guy who caricatures AY opposition; has blight arrested growth on Vanderbilt Avenue? (video)

A (just-graduated) Columbia J-School student got a one-on-one interview with Mikhail Prokhorov yesterday, which The Brooklyn Ink published under the headline Tea Time with Mikhail Prokhorov.

(Here's some backstory from the Observer on how the interview came about. And here's Vinnie Rotondaro's coverage of the groundbreaking--happy to quote without skepticism claims of jobs--which might have caught the eye of Prokhorov's handlers.)

While much of the interview was unsurprising, given Prokhorov's parries in other interviews, the billionaire was asked if he was cognizant of the protests against the project (answer: not much).

But Prokhorov was not pressed on his claim that the arena would offer "affordable housing, new jobs, excellent opportunities for the small and middle-sized businesses."

AY vs. DC's Chinatown

And the interviewer, apparently not familiar with the revival of Prospect Heights and the bogus claims of blight at the project site, compared the site to the "dump" that was Washington, DC's Chinatown and suggested "some people still don’t like the idea of there being a downtown, Manhattan-esque part of Brooklyn."

Um, there already is a Downtown Brooklyn. It was rezoned. The 22-acre Atlantic Yards site is outside the boundaries.

NY Observer, Meet Vinnie Rotondaro, The J-School Grad Who Scored a Prokhorov Exclusive

Russian billionaire and new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was in extremely high demand among reporters on his tour through New York this week. At a press conference on Wednesday, which lasted almost an hour, reporters were allowed to ask questions one at a time. It was a scrum.

Mr Prokhorov did, however, grant two one-on-one interviews. The first was with Mike Francesa of WFAN, a virtual requirement for anyone entering the New York sports world.

And who got the second interview? It wasn’t Sports Illustrated, or The Times, or ESPN or the Journal.

It was with a 28-year-old named Vinnie Rotondaro who graduated from Columbia School of Journalism three days ago.

NLG: Maybe this is all legit, but something sounds fishy in the tale of how Vinnie got the get.

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], Nets' owner Prokhorov enjoys taking bite of Big Apple but still sweet on Russia

Prohkorov did take time out of his busy schedule for an interview over English Breakfast tea at the Clover Club in Carroll Gardens with blogger Vinnie Rotondaro of The Brooklyn Ink.

When asked if he planned to buy property in Brooklyn, Russia’s second-richest man replied "I haven’t decided yet ... My first priority now is to build a championship team."

NLG: Perhaps he prefers to acquire property the way Bruce Ratner does — via eminent domain.

Posted by eric at May 21, 2010 11:08 AM