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RUSSIAN BUYER FOR NEW JERSEY NYETS The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

A billionaire Russian playboy is buying the Nets in a buzzer-beating deal that all but ensures the team moves to Brooklyn by 2011.

Mikhail Prokhorov - a 6-foot-7 Basketball nut, former amateur player, and current richest man in Russia - has agreed to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the majority stake in the New Jersey NBA team, build an arena for them in Brooklyn and push forward on current owner Bruce Ratner's long-stalled Atlantic Yards project.

"I have a longstanding passion for Basketball and pursuing interests that forward the development of the sport in Russia. I look forward to becoming a member of the NBA and working with Bruce and his talented team to bring the Nets to Brooklyn," said Prokhorov, 44.

The timing is key for Ratner, who has to break ground on the proposed new Nets arena before the end of December or risk losing out on $700 million in tax-free financing for the plan.

Under the terms of the deal, Prokhorov's Onexim Group will pay $200 million up front and an unspecified amount of future funding to acquire an 80 percent stake in the Nets and a 45 percent share of the Barclays Center arena project.

He would also have the right to purchase up to 20 percent of the non-arena part of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project - which includes plans for a residential and office tower complex.

"Mikhail and Onexim will be great partners for this project," Ratner said in a press release.

"We are one step closer to achieving our goals of creating much-needed jobs and economic development for Brooklyn and the city."

As majority owner of the team, Prokhorov would also be responsible for its debts, which are believed to be substantial.

The deal does have an out clause for Prokhorov - it's contingent on Ratner acquiring land for the arena. The state's seizure of the land has been hit with numerous legal challenges, and the case will be argued before New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, next month.

The deal - which would make Prokhorov the first non-North American to be a majority owner of an NBA team - also has to be approved by the NBA's league of governors.

A league official said they will perform an extensive background check on the billionaire, who is renowned for his lavish lifestyle and was enmeshed - but not charged - in a prostitution probe in France in 2007.

"We look at everything," the official said. Additional reporting by Amber Sutherland

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: September 26, 2009


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