Russian billionaire eyes Nets deal
Russian Mikhail Prokhorov considering a deal with the New Jersey Nets.
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2009 16:51 GMT

Keyon Dooling is one of the Nets players who could benefit from the deal [GALLO/GETTY]
Russia's richest man Mikhail Prokhorov is preparing an offer to help NBA's New Jersey Nets build a new arena.

Sources close to the Russian say he could own a large stake in the club as part of the $700 million deal.

Russian billionaires, dubbed the oligarchs, have splashed out on yachts, mansions and sports clubs as commodity prices soared in recent years. In the highest-profile deal, Roman Abramovich bought London football club Chelsea in 2003.

A spokesman for Prokhorov's Onexim investment vehicle confirmed on Thursday it had been approached to participate in building the New Jersey Nets' long-awaited arena in Brooklyn and was preparing an offer.

Big business

Prokhorov is considering issuing a bond worth $700 million through Onexim to help fund the project, one source close to the deal said.

The source said the bond must be issued before the end of 2009 so it is exempt from government taxes, adding: "This is a pure business story. The value potential of the club and arena are very high."

Another source familiar with Prokhorov's plans said the billionaire may end up owning a stake in the club as part of the deal.

Prokhorov, who towers over colleagues at 6 foot 9 inches, has an estimated fortune of $9.5 billion according to the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.

A former chief executive of Norilsk Nickel, he came under the international media spotlight more than two years ago when he was briefly detained in a prostitution probe in a French ski resort. He was released without charge.

While many of his Russian peers sought state bailouts, the 44-year-old former banker and mining executive has become flush with money after cashing out of assets in 2008 before the global financial crisis caused commodity prices to crash.

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