Prokhorov Bids for U.S. Basketball Team

Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov said Tuesday that he had made a counteroffer on a proposal that would see him take a stake in the New Jersey Nets and gain access for Russia’s basketball league to NBA techniques.

Prokhorov, Russia’s richest man, said he would fund the construction of a new stadium for the team in exchange for the right to buy a controlling stake in the club for a “symbolic amount.”

“Our group received an offer to take part in a project to build a new sports arena in Brooklyn and become a shareholder of the New Jersey Nets, which plans to move to Brooklyn in two years,” Prokhorov wrote in his blog Tuesday.

A spokesman for Onexim Group, Prokhorov’s investment vehicle, said last week that Prokhorov was considering a deal with the New Jersey Nets to help fund the construction of their new arena but gave no other details. The Sport-Express daily said in June that Prokhorov could buy the club.

Prokhorov said Tuesday that he had learned about his participation in the project “from the papers” and was approached by the team’s shareholders shortly afterward.

Prokhorov did not disclose the offer from the team’s shareholders, but he did spell out his own conditions for the deal.

Onexim Group will finance the construction of a new arena in Brooklyn with a “significant share” of the project serving as collateral, and in return it will get the right to buy a controlling stake in the club for a “symbolic amount.” To fund the project Onexim Group will take out a loan from Western banks, Prokhorov said.

As part of the deal, he said Russian basketball players and coaches must receive access to the team’s modern training techniques and the right to use them at home, Russian coaches and managers must get their own apprenticeship in the NBA, and student teams must be allowed to receive training in NBA schools.

“We are only interested in the project if we can use the techniques of the NBA for the systematic development of basketball in Russia,” Prokhorov wrote. “The professional league that we have, as everybody knows, can’t earn money on its own. That is why the basketball clubs’ existence depends completely on the support of the governors and the businessmen who are their fans.”

New Jersey Nets spokesman Barry Baum declined to comment on Prokhorov’s statement or disclose the details on the offer they made to Prokhorov.