Brooklyn Nets at centre of new takeover talk

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has engaged investment banking company Evercore Partners to aid the sale of the NBA basketball franchise, according to the Bloomberg news agency.

The Russian billionaire’s long-term commitment to the Nets has been in doubt in recent months, but his spokeswoman, Ellen Pinchuk, has sought to play down the latest reports. “As we have been saying for many months, team ownership is open to listening to offers,” Pinchuk said. “That’s just part of the business. There is nothing imminent in terms of the sale of any stake in the team.”

Prokhorov acquired majority ownership of the then New Jersey Nets in May 2010 for $223m (€166.4m). The team changed its name to the Brooklyn Nets in 2012 to mark its move to its new arena. The Russian’s current stake includes 80 per cent of the team and 45 per cent of the Barclays Center. However, only the Nets are said to be for sale.

Prokhorov became the first foreign owner of an NBA team when he took over and had set a goal of winning a championship within five years. The Nets have failed to get anywhere near to this target and lost a reported $144m last season.

Prokhorov is said to have initially gauged interest in the Nets after the takeover of rival NBA franchise the Los Angeles Clippers. Steve Ballmer, the former chief executive of software giant Microsoft, in August completed his takeover of the Clippers for an NBA record $2bn. The Nets’ presence in the United States’ No.1 media market has led to speculation that its sale could rival, or eclipse, this mark.