RUSSIA

No, Putin Is Not Going To Kill The Owner Of The Nets

A bizarre story speculating that the owner of the Nets is about to get whacked by Putin turns out to be false

RUSSIA
For once, Putin is not about to do something awful — Getty Images
Apr 27, 2016 at 12:16 PM ET

The New York Post is reporting that Mikhail Prokhorov is in the process of quickly liquidating his multi-billion dollar Russian mining and media empire. It supposedly represents the latest chess move in the ongoing and escalating war between the Brooklyn Nets owner and President Vladimir Putin.

Tensions between the two have mounted following the release of the Panama Papers, which revealed that the offices of Onexim Group—the management company that handles Prokhorov’s finances—were ransacked by “law enforcement officials” wearing ski masks, according to Reuters.

“The searches were linked to Prokhorov’s RBC Media holding, although an RBC Media spokesman said its offices, which are in a different location to Onexim’s, had not been searched,” sources told Reuters. “The media group’s flagship newspaper, RBC, has in recent months published detailed reports into the ‘Panama papers’ leaks and offshore assets of Putin associates, and reported on the business interests of Putin’s son-in-law.”

Of course, making an enemy of Putin is not the same as peeving your standard head of state.

“He broke a cardinal rule by embarrassing Putin,” an unnamed source explained to the Post. “Now he wants to get rid of everything and get the hell out of Russia … It’s self-preservation.” Prokhorov may have reason to fret, given that people who get on Putin’s bad side aren’t just disinvited from his performance enhancing drug-fueled sporting activities. Instead, they have the unfortunate habit of ending up dead.

Though Putin himself has never been directly implicated, a growing list of reporters, human rights activists, and political critics have been poisoned, assassinated, shot in the back of the head, exiled and then found hanging, kidnapped and then shot, and gunned down.

But according to Mark Ames, a journalist and the founding editor of Moscow’s The eXile, a newspaper the Kremlin shut down in 2008, Prokhorov shouldn’t in any way fear for his life, nor is he actually dumping his Russian assets.

“Selling one of his yachts (not located in Russia) and a news website is equivalent to liquidating his actual Russia holdings?” Ames said via email. “Nice thing about writing any bullshit involving Putin and Russia is you can say anything and no one will check you (or edit you). I seriously doubt RBC represents even a fraction of 1 percent of Prokhorov’s total Russia holdings.”

Ames added, however, that the post-Panama Papers raid on Onexim was “real” and even though the institution “has more skeletons in its closet than John Wayne Gacy,” the goal wasn’t necessarily to enact revenge, but to eradicate dissent.

“Shortly after, RBC is getting unloaded to an even friendlier and more reliable oligarch, [Alexander] Mamut. This is usually how the Kremlin censors and controls media,” Ames said. “Not by killing, but by coercing and intimidating media owners, and it works pretty well. RBC is one of the rare online media outlets that’s still pretty good, so despite all the weeping on behalf of a billionaire oligarch, it’s really another bad day for Russian journalism. Prokhorov will do fine.”

Additionally, the New York Post also wrote that Prokhorov will definitely be holding on to the Brooklyn Nets, despite the rumors that he’s ready to cash out.

Vocativ spoke with Devin Khapertian, the managing editor and founder of the Nets site, The Brooklyn Game. He explained that yes, nothing is imminent, but that has more to do with the team’s terrible record this season and absolute dearth of both draft picks and young talent than any panicked attempt to get the heck out of Russia.

“The Nets are likely at their lowest point right now given their recent failures and operations losses,” Khapertian said in an email. “NBA valuation is only going up from here. If Prokhorov waits until the team’s more successful before going on the market, he’d make a much tidier profit than if he ditched it now.”

So, in sum, Prokhorov won’t get whacked and will probably end up more insanely rich than ever before. Cool story, New York Post.