The New Jersey Nets have found their new owner and it just happens to be Russia's richest man. It had been rumored for the last few days that Mikhail Prokhorov had been in talks with the current ownership group to take over the majority and today it appears the deal had been finalized.
Prokhorov's Onexim Group came to terms with Forest City Ratner Companies and Nets Sports and Entertainment and have signed a letter of intent to create a strategic partnership for the development of the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn.
This deal makes him the first Russian owner of a major U.S. professional sports team. Prokhorov, an avid basketball fan, agreed to buy 80 percent of the team and 45 percent of the Barclays Center from Bruce Ratner.
The $200 million deal was necessary for Ratner who had only three months left to break ground on the arena or lose financing through tax-exempt New York State bonds. Another factor that was influential in Ratner making the deal was that Barclays Plc also had the right to pull out of its 20-year, $400 million naming-rights deal for the arena if construction hasn’t started by that date.
“This partnership will ensure the successful completion of a world-class entertainment venue in Brooklyn, the relocation of the NBA Nets basketball team and the economic and housing benefits of the Atlantic Yards Project,” according to the statement from Forest City Ratner Cos., Nets Sports & Entertainment and Onexim Group, Prokhorov’s company.
NBA Commissioner David Stern is praising the move. He says it's a chance for the NBA to expand globally and ensures that the Nets will have a new arena.
The deal’s final hurdle is gaining approval by the NBA's board of governors but this is all but a formality now.