On Sept. 2, Mikhail Prokhorov, billionaire owner of the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets, announced he would consider a run for the Russian presidency this winter if the political party he created, Right Cause, does well in parliamentary elections in December. (The Transom first learned of this from a friend who is a journalist in Moscow, and confirmed it with English-language reports of Mr. Prokhorov’s comments.)
So, if Mr. Prokhorov, the central-casting projection of modern muscular Russia, does, in fact, edge out his friend Vladimir Putin or Mr. Putin’s hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, what will it mean for the borough’s b-ball? Can one man be the leader of a superpower and the owner of a powerhouse at the same time?
Yes. There is nothing in the N.B.A.’s charter that precludes a foreign head of state from owning a team, though none ever has (the closest analogy might be U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, who has owned the Milwaukee Bucks since 1985; George W. Bush sold his stake in baseball’s Texas Rangers before he became president).
Where it gets a tad dicey for a 46-year-old President Prokhorov is that he would have to spend much of his time in his country rather than, say, in David Walentas’s Clock Tower penthouse in Dumbo, or some other suitably baronial domain for an oligarch abroad.
“It would very much change his ownership style with the Nets,” said Robert Boland, a clinical associate professor of sports management at N.Y.U. “He’s a very hands-on guy. From everything that I’ve observed about him, he likes to be involved firmly, he likes to own the franchise.”
Mr. Boland said that in sports ownership the best owners are either highly involved or not really involved at all, turning over management to pros. Seizing a middle-ground tends to breed ineptitude. (The Dolans and the Knicks, anyone? The Wilpons and the Mets?) So if a freshly elected Mr. Prokhorov had to shed management responsibilities vis-à-vis the Nets, it would not necessarily hurt the franchise, Mr. Boland said.
In fact, his presidency could help the N.B.A.
“The N.B.A. is ripe to expand globally,” Mr. Boland said. “Suddenly, here’s an N.B.A. owner with a hugely important political role in Europe and Asia. He might become very important to the N.B.A. in terms of expansion or movement abroad.”
And, somewhere, Marty Markowitz lays out a suit for the inauguration.
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