Nets owner Prokhorov seeks to bring team under Russian control

Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, has announced he plans to relocate the company that operates the NBA basketball team to Russia.

The Russian billionaire is making the move to fall in-line with the Kremlin’s request that Russian businessmen repatriate their assets to help combat new US sanctions. The United States and European Union have imposed asset freezes and visa bans on officials and businessmen said to be close to President Vladimir Putin in protest at Russia’s actions in the Crimean region of Ukraine.

Prokhorov has not been hit by such sanctions, but his move to increase Russian control over the Nets is being interpreted as a sign of support for Putin. “A Russian company will own the basketball club,” Prokhorov said before receiving a medal for services to Russia along with other national sports officials. He added, according to the Reuters news agency: “This (move) does not violate any NBA rules and I will bring it (under Russian jurisdiction) in accordance with Russian law.”

The NBA said it has not been notified of any changes to the Nets’ ownership. “The Nets are owned by Mikhail Prokhorov through a US-based company,” Mike Bass, an NBA spokesman, said. “We have received no official application nor is there a process underway through our office to transfer the ownership of the Nets to another company.”

In September 2009, Prokhorov agreed a deal to become principal owner of the then New Jersey Nets and a key investor in the team’s new Barclays Center home in Brooklyn. The team changed its name to the Brooklyn Nets in 2012 to mark its move to its new arena.