Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has parted ways with Evercore Partners, an investment banking firm he hired to explore the sale of the team, Darren Rovell of ESPNNewYork.com reports. Prokhorov, who owns 80% of the franchise and 45% of the Barclays Center, hired the firm to take offers on the team after observing Steve Ballmer’s whopping $2 billion purchase price for the Clippers. Prokhorov bought the team in May 2010 for $200MM. Forbes magazine lists the Nets as the sixth most valuable team in the NBA at $1.5 billion, Rovell notes.
This development lends credence to a statement made by Nets CEO Brett Yormark last week. “Nothing has happened and they’ve been talking about it [in the media] for a year,” Yormark said. “So I’d probably say I don’t think anything is going to happen. We have an ownership group that is very committed.”
The investment fund for the government of the nation of Qatar and former interim Clippers CEO Dick Parsons were reportedly interested in purchasing the Nets, a franchise that multiple sports bankers believe would sell for as much as $2 billion, according to Josh Kosman and Claire Atkinson of the New York Post. Kosman and Atkinson also identified “two wealthy U.S. families” as parties potentially eyeing a purchase of the Nets. Others who have been linked to the Nets include investor David Bonderman, former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, hedge fund manager David Einhorn, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
The Nets are now in the fifth season of Prokhorov’s ownership, which happens to be the same season by which he predicted that the franchise would win an NBA title. Unfortunately for the team and its fans, the Nets are closer to winning the draft lottery (if they owned their first-rounder next season) than they are to raising a championship banner. Much of Brooklyn’s current woes are the result of high-risk trades that mortgaged the franchise’s future for a run at a title, a strategy that backfired and will have the team struggling to recover over the next few seasons, something that new ownership wouldn’t necessarily be able to reverse. But now it would appear that Prokhorov may be around long enough to have to endure the team’s rebuilding years. Of course, the right offer for the team could change everything in a flash, though that is just my speculation.