Sunday , Sep , 27 , 2009 Oly Sandor

From Russia with love: Mikhail Prokhorov perfect for New Jersey Nets


From Russia with love: Mikhail Prokhorov perfect for New Jersey NetsWhen it comes to ownership, fans fear the unknown.

The fear is that the billionaire, after assuming control over the club, will treat the fan’s passion like his personal play thing. Logos will be altered; bizarre marketing schemes will get the green light. And the fans will lose their connection to the club they love.

This is the worst case scenario, hatched out in the minds of irrational sports nuts, who live and die with their favorite team’s every move. On the flip side, the best case scenario is when a new owner brings fresh life and resources to a stale franchise.

Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia’s richest man, will fall into the latter category as the new owner of the New Jersey Nets.

Call it the Roman Abramovich factor. Prokhorov, like Chelsea FC’s famous owner, is part of Russia’s new elites called the oligarchs, who amassed massive wealth in the 1990s. These men are Alpha males; they excelled in Russia’s cut-throat business environment and despise losing.

The club’s culture will improve with Prokhorov holding a majority share. And being so competitive, he won’t accept a poor record or mediocre play. From top to bottom, the Nets will have a greater sense of urgency next year.

The money helps. At a time when franchises are slashing costs and salaries, Prokhorov possesses the type of disposable income (he’s worth approximately 9 billion) to turn the ‘Swamps of Jersey’ into a destination. He’ll spend on extra luxuries that appeal to millionaire athletes.

For years, the Nets were linked to a new arena as part of a redevelopment project for the Atlantic Yards region of Brooklyn, New York. However, Bruce Ratner, the club’s former majority owner, couldn’t finance the project on his own.

With Prokhorov in the fold, the Brooklyn arena again looks like a go. Barclays, a massive British bank, are rumored to have interest in buying naming rights and the 6-6 Russian will bring other international contacts to the franchise.

The timing is perfect. With a rich owner and developing core, the Nets are suddenly attractive to free agents next summer.

Sound off in the comment box: Is Prokhorov good or bad for the New Jersey Nets? Follow Oly on HoopsVibe and Twitter. Photo courtesy of Mitya Aleshkovsky.