We’re not sure everyone understands the ramifications — the awesome ramifications — of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov potentially buying the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets. He has agreed to the deal, but he needs the approval of 23 of the 30 NBA owners. We desperately want him to get it. Why? Because Mikhail Prokhorov is unlike any other billionaire, any sports owner, any human. You really need to know him better. Thus, our weekly series here on The Sports Section: Mikhail Prokhorov Theater, in which we retell grand old anecdotes about — and we want to be careful not to overstate this — the world’s most amazing man. This week: The Upside of Prostitution.
Last week, we reminded you of Comrade Prokhorov’s unfortunate incident in the French Alps, with scores of Russian 20-year-old women imported for something that surely wasn’t, no way, a massive orgy to celebrate the Russian Orthodox New Year. One would think such an incident would be harmful to Prokhorov. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him.
Here’s how it worked. Though Prokhorov was ultimately cleared of all charges, the arrest caused him considerable tabloidy headaches back in Russia. Prokhorov and his partner, Vladimir Potanin, ran Norilsk Nickel, a massive producer of, well, nickel. When the экскремент hit the fan post-arrest, Potanin saw it as an opportunity to push Prokhorov out and take control of the company. Keith Gessen reports what happened next:
After a year of increasingly hostile negotiations, Prokhorov sold his share in Norilsk to a third oligarch for a stake in an aluminum giant and about $7 billion in cash. This buyout seemed like the end of Prokhorov’s days as a serious player, until world equity and commodity prices crashed a few months later and he woke up as the richest man in Russia.
You see, you have to be careful what you wish for. You might be happy that your estranged partner is arrested for surely not, no way, importing scores of 20-year-old women for a massive orgy to celebrate the Russian Orthodox New Year. You think this is to your advantage. You might see this as a gift from the богs. But when you give him $7 billion in cash — presumably in nickels — to go away, sometimes the world economy collapses, and suddenly you’ve lost billions in value while he’s lying by the pool, surrounded by suitcases filled with cash and G-strings. Had the arrest never happened, Prokhorov surely would have been less liquid and lost as much as everybody else. Instead: He got out (or was pushed out) at exactly the right time. This guy has more in common with Mark Cuban than we thought.
Thus, Mikhail Prokhorov buys American (and Italian) sports teams with nickels he has lying around. We should all have such exquisite timing.