He couldn’t say nyet to the Nets!
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has saved Bruce Ratner’s plans for Atlantic Yards and relocating the New Jersey Nets to a new arena at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues on Wednesday by agreeing to buy 80 percent of the money-losing basketball franchise and become a major investor in the long-stalled arena, office and residential project.
“This partnership will ensure the successful completion of a world-class entertainment venue in Brooklyn, the relocation of the Nets and the economic and housing benefits of the Atlantic Yards project,” Ratner’s development company said in a statement.
According to that statement, the deal calls for Prokhorov’s Onexim Group to invest $200 million “and make certain contingent funding commitments” to acquire 45 percent of the arena project and 80 percent of the NBA team, which Ratner purchased in 2004 for $300 million.
Prokhorov also has the right to purchase up to 20 percent of the Ratner subsidiary that is developing the non-arena real estate.
The news was somewhat confused by a statement that appeared on Prokhorov’s own Web site on Wednesday that said his company would offer a “symbolic amount” for the Nets “in exchange for financing the construction” of the Barclays Center.
In the statement, Prokhorov, who made his fortune in mining, calls himself “Russia’s richest man” and touts his $9.5-billion fortune. He said his group would “loan Ratner and his partners the money they need to build the Barclays Center.”
Earlier in the week, the billionaire “broke” the news about his impending purchase of the Nets in a rambling blog post that implied that he would join forces with Ratner as a way of fostering basketball in Russia.
“For our group,” he said, “participation in such a complex project undoubtedly is interesting only in the event that NBA technology can be used for the systematic development of basketball in Russia. … We must change the model of basketball development in Russia using super-modern systems of coaching. The base for such development should be a strong youth basketball league. This is what we’ll do if we close the deal.”
If approved by the NBA, Prokhorov would be the first Russian owner in the league — apparently another goal of his.
The purchase, he said, would give Russia “a position of equality among the elites of world basketball, access to all modern technology and training methods with the possibility of using them in Russia, apprenticeships for leading Russian trainers and managers in the NBA [and] the ability to send our best students to NBA training camps.”
For his part, Ratner focuses on the inking of a deal that moves Atlantic Yards forward.
“Mikhail and Onexim will be great partners for this project,” the developer said in the statement. “I am thrilled that smart global investors appreciate the exciting economic potential of Brooklyn. We are one step closer to achieving our goals of creating much needed jobs and economic development.”
Atlantic Yards opponents jeered the new arrangement.
“Just when you thought the Atlantic Yards project couldn’t get more corrupt, developer Bruce Ratner has announced a partnership with Russia’s richest oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov,” Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn said in a statement.
The group, whose case against the state’s use of eminent domain will be heard next month in New York State’s highest court, connected the dots to suggest that now the state’s condemnation power was no longer being abused to simply make money for Ratner, but “to enrich a Russian oligarch and modernize the Russian basketball system.”
“Is that what [Mayor] Bloomberg, [Gov.] Paterson and [Borough President] Markowitz are all about?”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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