Put the borscht on the menu at the Barclays Center — a Russian billionaire now owns the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets!
On Tuesday, the NBA’s Board of Governors signed off on Bruce Ratner’s sale of the struggling franchise to oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, making the metals and mining mogul the first non-North American owner of a team.
Last year, the 45-year-old Prokhorov (left) inked a deal with Ratner to buy 80-percent of the money-losing team, plus 45 percent of the lucrative Barclays Center arena, which is under construction at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
And he’s excited about turning around the fortunes of this once-great club.
“For those who are already fans of the Nets and the NBA, I intend to give you plenty to cheer about,” he said in a statement.
The NBA vote accomplishes several things, namely, allowing Prokhorov to be front and center at the league’s draft next week — an event that is seen as the first step on the road to recovery for the Nets, who may win the overall first pick, thanks to the team’s 12-70 record this season.
And the vote also allows Ratner to devote his full attention to what made him wealthy in his own right: building.
Indeed, Ratner recently told the Wall Street Journal that he lost around $30 million each season that he ran the team.
Prokhorov’s agreement to buy the Nets, and take a stake in the arena that will house them, pulled the entire $4-billion Atlantic Yards project from the brink of a collapse brought on by a slack economy, lawsuits and cost-overruns associated with Frank Gehry’s initial design.
NBA Commissioner David Stern hailed the board vote with a statement on Tuesday. But not everyone was as fired up about the Siberian tiger that will soon be coming to Brooklyn.
Several lawmakers have called for a delay to the approval due to allegations that Prokhorov earned his billions in part through shady business dealings with Zimbabwe.
“The public benefits of Atlantic Yards will be hollow if they are achieved with the help of profits gained through fraudulent schemes or a regime that holds no regard for human rights,” read the letter, signed by Councilmembers Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) and Letitia James (D-Fort Greene) and three state Assemblymen.
But Nets fans are salivating.
Prokhorov has said little thus far, but when he has spoken about the team, he has promised to throw his money around to attract top talent, including, perhaps, the great LeBron James, who becomes a free agent after this season.
Many teams covet the Cavalier, but a source close to Ratner said that the Nets could be competitive and exciting with a different mix of role-players once the Barclays Center opens during the 2012-2013 season.
The NBA’s approval of the deal caps a whirlwind three month for Ratner and his Atlantic Yards.
In March, a judge approved the developer’s seizure of properties in the project footprint through eminent domain.
Ratner then broke ground in a star-studded affair and later struck deals with the final holdouts in the footprint, including Freddy’s Bar and the condo owner Daniel Goldstein.