Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov Confident He Can Turn Around Woeful Nets

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The Nets stand on the precipice of all-time infamy. With nine wins in their first 73 games, they stand a chance to be the worst team in the NBA. Ever.

But things are starting to look up. They have tons of cap space, a plan for a new arena in Brooklyn and a potential owner who is worth $17.8 billion dollars.

Don’t feel bad for the guys with the bags on their heads yet.

While it took decades for the New Orleans Saints to take their fans from brown-bagging it to Super Bowl champions, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov plans on working just a little bit quicker.

“I am real excited to take the worst team of the league and turn it to be the best,” the 44-year-old Prokhorov said in an interview with 60 MinutesSteve Kroft.

According to the New York Times, the Russian says the plans start with the draft lottery on May 18, a draft he considers as deep as the vaunted 2003 class of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. All three of those players also could be on the market this offseason, as they all could decline team options and hit the market for max contracts.

“We will certainly try to use a large number of free agents over the next two seasons,” Prokhorov told the Times.

Prokhorov is an avid sports fan. He previously supported the Russian basketball team CSKA Moscow, which has won two of the past four European titles, finishing as runner-up in the other two. According to the Times, in his bid to become majority owner of the Nets, he offered $200 million for an 80-percent share of the team and 45-percent share of the proposed Barclay’s Center in downtown Brooklyn — home to one of the United States’ largest Russian populations.

In addition to the $200 million for the team and arena, Prokhorov must finance up to $60 million of the team’s losses before the move and inherit 80 percent of the team’s $207-million debt, bringing the approximate total up-front investment in the franchise to around $425 million.

According to the Times, Prokhorov initially targeted the Knicks as a team to buy, loving the feel of a big city like New York. But after conveying his interest in purchasing an NBA team in 2008, he was rebuffed by the Knicks’ owners, Cablevision.

No such defense was put up by Bruce C. Ratner, whose company is selling the Nets. Within six weeks of meeting, the two already had a deal in place. Despite the framework being done, I’s had to be dotted and T’s had to be crossed, mainly by the league, which goes into an extensive background check on potential owners.

Despite some of Prokhorov’s earlier business dealings — which may have been less than on the level — commissioner David Stern told the Times in December that nothing was found to prevent him from buying the Nets.

Fans in New Jersey — and Brooklyn — can hardly wait.

Watch all of Prokhorov’s 60 Minutes interview below.


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