Once-boastful Prokhorov backing out of Brooklyn
Nets Owner Reportedly Looking to Sell Majority Stake in Franchise
Mikhail Prokhorov came busting into Brooklyn boasting of championship banners he’d soon hang from Barclays Center rafters, even going as far as to bet his reputed bachelorhood on it.
It appears the Russian billionaire and Brooklyn Nets owner is tip-toeing his way back out of our fair borough, very quietly and without a championship bauble or wedding ring on his finger.
According to a report in the New York Post last week, Prokhorov, who has previously tried in vain to sell a minority stake in the franchise without giving up his control of the team’s state-of-the-art Downtown arena, is now seeking a “two-part process” by which he can pull out of Nets ownership.
Initially, Prokhorov would like to deal off only part of the Nets, with an agreement in place that said buyer will eventually — two or three years from time of purchase — take full control of Brooklyn’s first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers fled to La-La Land back in 1957.
This would be very similar to the way former New York Islanders owner and Brooklyn Tech High School graduate Charles Wang sold off his team to current Isles co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky.
Currently valued at $2 billion, the Nets, much like their headline-grabbing owner, came in with a bang, reaching the playoffs in each of their first three seasons, before petering out as of late.
Brooklyn has gone a combined 41-123 over the past two seasons, including an NBA-worst 20-62 mark in 2016-17.
Also, the team’s attendance figures have dropped drastically during this on-the-court malaise, going from a strong 17,000 per night over the first three campaigns to 15,429 last year, which ranked third-from-last on the 30-team circuit.
Prokhorov famously declared upon taking control of the team from Downtown developer Bruce Ratner in 2010 that he would give up his single lifestyle if the Nets did not capture an NBA title during his first five years of ownership.
He also appeared to take great pleasure in poking fun at the Nets’ East River rivals in Manhattan, hanging a giant banner adjacent to Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, with a likeness of himself, Brooklyn rap icon Jay-Z and the phrase “Blueprint for Greatness” emblazoned across it, referring to the rapper’s album “The Blueprint.”
But after winning a single playoff series since their official arrival here in 2012, a now-hollow victory that came at the cost of a fistful of their future first-round draft picks via the infamous trade that landed Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett here in the summer of 2013, the Nets are a 1,000-to-1 shot to capture a title this year, according to the current odds in Las Vegas.
And those are generous odds.
The 52-year-old Prokhorov, who has also been the subject of tabloid fodder for his failed Russian presidential bid, did his best George Steinbrenner imitation during his first several years here.
He ran through five head coaches — Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins and Tony Brown — during the team’s first four seasons in Brooklyn, all while demanding nothing short of an NBA title for a franchise founded in 1967 that is still seeking its very first.
Despite tagging former general manager Billy King with most of the blame for the 2013 “blockbuster deal” with Boston that is still costing the Nets their first-rounder next season, Prokhorov had to give the order for that ill-advised move to go through.
Now, perhaps realizing the cost of his rashness during the early part of his ownership tenure, Prokhorov is preaching a more “patient” approach, giving GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson plenty of leeway in the results department.
While Brooklynites wait for their team to become relevant again on the NBA landscape, Prokhorov is simply biding his time until he can walk away from the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues with a cool $2 billion in his already well-stuffed pockets.
That’s almost 10 times more than he gave Ratner, $220 million, seven years ago, not to mention the money he will be pulling in going forward from the various concerts, fight cards and other events at Barclays, which he fully intends to keep on his list of assets.
Ultimately, Prokhorov played Brooklyn and Nets fans to a tee.
He talked big and spent big for a few years, setting NBA records for payroll in each of his first three seasons at the helm in Brooklyn, before ultimately watching as the Nets lost big, both on the court and off it.
But all of it will only profit him in the end, which is the goal for any true businessman. And there is no doubting that in the end, Mikhail Prokhorov, has proven to be just that and nothing more; all business, nothing personal.
And no rings attached.
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