Every millionairewho becomes a pro sports owner daydreams about championships. But Bruce Ratnerenvisioned much more when he acquired the Nets for $300 million in 2004. Thereal estate developer planned to move the team, an afterthought for most of itspost-ABA history, from its backwater New Jersey home to a gleaming new arena inBrooklyn, where it would be part of a $4.9 billion commercial, residential andentertainment complex. The Nets would revitalize a neighborhood, revel in NewYork City cachet—maybe, if all went well, even become cool enough to woo acertain Cavaliers star who will be a free agent in 2010.
Ratner's grandplan hit many snags, not the least of which are the $400 million his ownershipgroup has lost and the endless legal red tape, both of which have threatened toderail the Brooklyn project. But the plan got a jolt—and a cash infusion—lastweek when Ratner sold a majority share of the Nets to Russian billionaireMikhail Prokhorov for $200 million. Prokhorov will help finance the arena andgain minority ownership of it; Ratner, now a minority team owner, will be thebuilding's main stakeholder.
Prokhorov, 44,isn't as unlikely an NBA partner as it might seem. There's his wealth, forstarters: Before the recession he cashed out of the lucrative nickel-miningfirm he founded and is worth $9.5 billion. But unlike Ratner, he likely seesthe Nets as more than an anchor tenant in a glorified mall. Prokhorov playedhoops in high school—he's 6'6"—and is part-owner of Russian pro team CSKAMoscow, a Euroleague powerhouse. Russia's richest man is also a renownedplayboy, so he'll have something in common with many of the men he'll pay toplay ball. The NBA must still approve the sale, but commissioner David Sternseemed to give it his blessing last week. Might the Nets' Brooklyn dreamfinally be realized? Said Ratner last week, "No doubt about that."
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
Former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson is hosting aninterior decorating show on A&E called Keyshawn Johnson: TacklingDesign.
PHOTOXPRESS/ZUMA PRESS (PROKHOROV)
NET GAIN Prokhorov (at a charity game in January) has deep pockets and deep love for the game.