President Obama may have weighed in on New York’s upcoming gubernatorial race, but he remains silent when it comes to commenting on Atlantic Yards.
That after the White House declined comment on Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s majority purchase of the NBA’s Nets and their planned move to Brooklyn.
Obama, a huge Chicago Bulls fan, recently decided to scrap former President George Bush’s missile defense plan in Eastern Europe in favor of a more mobile defense system, and relations between the United States and Russia appear to be thawing.
According to Prokhorov spokesperson Freeman Miller, the team’s new owner knows former Russian President and current Prime minister Vladamir Putin very well, and despite reports of some Russian Parliament members not being happy with the purchase, the sale appears to have the Kremlin’s approval.
Obama had talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at last week’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, and the White House also declined comment on whether Atlantic Yards and the sale entered into their conversation.
Questions submitted via email to the Russian government were not answered at press time.
The 6-foot-8 Prokhorov, an avid sportsman and amateur basketball player, who once owned a share of the Moscow professional hoops team, made his fortune primarily through gold, metals and mining in Russia.
Under the agreement, Prokhorov will invest $200 million and make certain contingent funding commitments to acquire 45 percent of the arena project and 80 percent of the NBA team, and the right to purchase up to 20 percent of 22-acre Atlantic Yards Development Company, which will develop the non-arena real estate.
“I have a long-standing passion for basketball and pursuing interests that forward the development of the sport in Russia. I look forward to becoming a member of the NBA and working with Bruce [Forest City Ratner president Bruce Ratner] and his talented team to bring the Nets to Brooklyn,” he said in a statement when the deal was announced.
Meanwhile, sources close to FCR said once the deal closes what will happen to current Nets employees remains up in the air.
While Prokhorov will likely hold sway over player and basketball related personnel, FCR might absorb some Nets employees that work on the business side of the operation such as ticket sales and arena sponsorship.
There might even be a split in the payment of salary between FCR and Prokhorov, sources added.
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