Q&A: Mikhail Prokhorov

Oct 01, 2012

Interviewed in Russian by Carl Schreck

DETAILS: Two years after buying the New Jersey Nets, you're making good on your promise to move the team to Brooklyn. Anything you'll miss about Jersey?

Mikhail Prokhorov: The word miss is not part of my vocabulary.

DETAILS: Brooklyn hasn't had a professional sports team since 1957. Do you think you can build a team that fans can love as much as they loved the Dodgers?

Mikhail Prokhorov: I think for Brooklyn this is truly something special. I've met with people there, and everyone remembers how their team left for Los Angeles. And I think what's happening now—with the opening of the arena and the formation of a new competitive team—will resonate with fans in Brooklyn.

DETAILS: Did you learn any lessons from your unsuccessful attempt to sign Carmelo Anthony?

Mikhail Prokhorov: I generally draw lessons from a broader set of goals I set for myself. The NBA is a very competitive league, and there's an intense battle not only for players but for fans and advertising as well. So the stronger the competition, the more interesting it is for me. We were never working from a single game plan. The whole time we had Plan A, B, C, and D. These plans may intersect at some point, but our goal remains the same: Build a championship team and win the title within the first five years. Two years have already passed, so we have three years left. My plans haven't changed.

DETAILS: Do you expect a better season from Kris Humphries, with the Kim Kardashian drama behind him?

Mikhail Prokhorov: I've already given my opinion on this. I'm always on the side of my players.

DETAILS: Did you get to meet Kim?

Mikhail Prokhorov: We said hello. That was all we had time for.

DETAILS: Do you and Jay-Z, who's a minority owner of the Nets, have anything in common?

Mikhail Prokhorov: I think so. First of all, my family was never rich. We never had a car or a country house, though we were solidly middle-class by Soviet standards. But what Jay-Z and I share is that we're both self-made. We both achieved a certain level of success, thanks to our own talent and hard work. We definitely have that bond.

DETAILS: Has he taught you anything about business? Have you taught him anything?

Mikhail Prokhorov: We haven't worked together so closely yet. We've mainly interacted socially, so neither of us has had time to examine one another's business practices. We've been more focused on how to build a strong basketball team that will add a fresh spark to Brooklyn.

DETAILS: You rapped on Russian television earlier this year, and there's been talk that you and Jay-Z plan to rap together at the opening of the Barclays Center. Are you a hip-hop fan?

Mikhail Prokhorov: I respect rap greatly but don't consider myself a fan. Regarding my performance on Russian TV, it was a complete surprise when I was asked to rap. But if I set my mind to something, I always achieve great heights. So I don't think it would be fair if I offered to rap with Jay—I could cause irreparable damage to his professional career.

DETAILS: What kind of music do you like?

Mikhail Prokhorov: Every year, I travel to Ibiza, and I go to nightclubs occasionally, and there I like house and techno. I grew up on the music of the seventies and eighties and even going back to the sixties—the Beatles, mainly. I also like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.

DETAILS: You're probably aware that Deep Purple is former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's favorite band.

Mikhail Prokhorov: No, I didn't know that. My affection for Deep Purple has nothing to do with Dmitry Medvedev.

DETAILS: You ran for president yourself as an independent this year after election officials accepted your bid. How do you answer critics who say you couldn't have run without Kremlin approval?

Mikhail Prokhorov: People always accuse me of being a "Kremlin project." I always tell them that, in fact, I'm my parents' project—and my entire life I've always been No. 1, never No. 2. And I'm too old to change this now.

DETAILS: There's widespread animosity toward the rich in Russia. Did you think the country was prepared to elect a billionaire?

Mikhail Prokhorov: I thought the same thing before I ran. But I captured 6 million votes, despite major disadvantages. I got less television airtime than any other candidate, and I didn't have a political party behind me. I relied entirely on volunteers and my true supporters. I received a significant amount of support from people who voted for me only because they know I won't steal. People are so sick of theft and corruption.

DETAILS: Let's talk about the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who received a two-year prison sentence after they stormed a Moscow cathedral last February to protest the Russian Orthodox Church's support of Vladimir Putin, who was later elected president. What's your take on the situation?

Mikhail Prokhorov: The only word I can find to describe those proceedings is reactionary. It's an absolutely egregious case. This was, perhaps, poor behavior by these young women, but at most they deserved 15 days in jail for disturbing the peace. The entire criminal-justice system and political system—including the church—has ganged up on them. This was a show trial that greatly disturbs me, because it was exactly these kinds of trials in our history that led up to [the Stalinist purges of] 1937.

DETAILS: Do you think Putin should have been allowed to return to the Kremlin? He could be there another 12 years—that's a long time.

Mikhail Prokhorov: I proposed limiting the presidency to two four-year terms without the possibility of running again. If you ask me, yes, it's a long time.

DETAILS: If you are ever elected president, will there be a First Lady?

Mikhail Prokhorov: Of course. Her name is Russia.

DETAILS: At 47, you're widely known as Russia's No. 1 bachelor and an admirer of female beauty.

Mikhail Prokhorov: Is that a bad thing?

DETAILS: Not at all. What do you look for in a woman?

Mikhail Prokhorov: First of all, I'm not really considered the most eligible bachelor anymore, because everyone has already given up hope that I might ever get married. Regarding the most important trait in a woman, I would answer with the words of Oscar Wilde: "Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood."

DETAILS: You're also developing a hybrid car, the Yo-Mobile. Do you like to drive?

Mikhail Prokhorov: Once traffic jams began appearing in Moscow in 1995, I decided to stop driving altogether. I was a good driver. I even competed in ice-rally competitions.

DETAILS: You're six feet eight inches tall. Is that a blessing or a curse?

Mikhail Prokhorov: It can be a double-edged sword. I'm visible everywhere. Whenever I tried to cut class in school, I would always get caught. But whenever I'd take the subway, the air was always fresh up high. For everyday living, it can be difficult. I don't fit in hotel beds, can't squeeze into certain cars, and it's hard to buy clothes. But tall people don't mind the hassles. They only make us stronger."

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