Report: Mikhail Prokhorov Transferring Brooklyn Nets Parent Company to Russia

Jim Cavan@@JPCavanContributor IMarch 24, 2014

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov speaks at a news conference in Moscow, Thursday, June 13, 2013. Prokhorov said he is not running for Moscow mayor. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

UPDATE on March 25 at 11:55 a.m. ET by Adam Fromal

If Mikhail Prokhorov does end up relocating the Brooklyn Nets' parent company to Russia, it won't happen for a while: 

There isn't any sort of definitive timeframe on this move, but it's quite clear that nothing will be taking place in the immediate future. That's the time for discussions, speculation and the release of more information, not any sort of official transfer. 

--End of update--



Per Alexei Anishchuk of Reuters (via Yahoo), Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, in response to orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin, is in the process of relocating the team’s parent company to Russia.

The United States and European Union have imposed visa bans and asset freezes on officials and businessmen believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in protest at Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region. Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, had said previously that he planned to relocate the company that runs the NBA team to Russia, but his comments to reporters in the Kremlin underlined his support for Putin.

Speaking to reporters, Prokhorov justified his decision as being fully in line with the NBA’s bylaws:

A Russian company will own the basketball club. This (move) does not violate any NBA (U.S. National Basketball Association) rules and I will bring it (under Russian jurisdiction) in accordance with Russian law.

Stopping short of outright condemnation, NBA spokesman Mike Bass took slight exception with Prokhorov’s terms:

The Nets are owned by Mikhail Prokhorov through a U.S.-based company. 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.

Not surprisingly, the move has its roots in an ongoing dispute relating to Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, a hotly contested region in southeastern Ukraine with strong pro-Russian sentiments.

In response to sanctions and other measures orchestrated by the United States and a number of its allies, Putin has in recent weeks moved to re-appropriate Russian businesses and other assets housed in foreign countries critical of the Kremlin’s actions.

It’s hard to say exactly how contentious Prokhorov’s actions will end up being. On the one hand, it does sound like there’s a protocol that’s not exactly being followed.

On the other, it’s not like he’s kidnapping Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and the rest of the Nets and forcing them to play in the Russian Professional Basketball League.

Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

Still, the political interplay is nothing if not fascinating: As noted in the Yahoo piece, Prokhorov actually ran against Putin in Russia’s 2012 presidential election. Which, let’s face it, is pretty risky business to begin with.

Russia is notorious for its decidedly insular politics, so perhaps Prokhorov’s gesture of solidarity shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Part of the reason people love sports is they offer an escape from the ugly realities of everyday life—a different world, at once real and not, in which both the baser and better parts of our nature are expressed in an arena of acceptance. Unless you’re talking Michigan and Ohio State, of course.

Sometimes, however, the spheres of sports and geopolitics are set on a collision course that no fan or fanbase, irrespective of passion, can prevent.

Man, I don’t know. Isn’t there a basketball game on or something?