They are members of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, these billionaires. They range the more famous names like Gates and Buffett to the Waltons, who may not be as rich individually, but together, control the world's largest retailer. And, of course, Mikhail Prokhorov.
And if Adrian Wojnarowski's column is true, LeBron James may not be far from making that list:
"The presentation of New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been designed to reach LeBron James on his deepest and most superficial of levels. The self-made mogul has carefully crafted a detailed and daring plan to make James a billionaire..."
John Maxwell, a very well-known author on the topic of leadership, states in the Law of Magnetism that leaders attract people to themselves with similar qualities. From this perspective alone, a metal tycoon with both a sense for business and for basketball (having managed CSKA Moscow to considerable success) would make a very attractive leader for James, who has a sense for business (having his own marketing firm, for instance) and for basketball (no explanation needed.)
No professional athlete cracked the most recent Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, although it should be noted that, outside of the top members, much of the list is subject to change in any given year. Tiger Woods, who has come as close as anybody in recent memory to achieving the feat, is not employed by a team in the same way an NFL, NBA, or MLB player is, plus, considering his recent problems, he has lost considerable endorsement money, which hinders his chance at a ten-figure net worth.
That said, if this plan comes to fruition, James would become a pioneer for others in his profession, one that could, and should, make others in the league take notice. Consider that, if he were to achieve the mark, a billionaire James would have the resources to buy his old team, currently valued at $455m although subject to depriation if he departs, with more than enough money to spare. Or that, if he cracks the list, his wealth would begin to rival current owners like Jeffrey Lurie (#394) of the Florida Marlins or Daniel Snyder (#347) of the Washington Redskins. Of course, in New Jersey, the dynamic would still be somewhat normal, since Prokhorov's net worth is so much greater and he still owns the team. And in Cleveland, he has a tremendous amount of influence, anyway. But that amount of money could set the stage for an athlete to have leverage within his current team.
A player-owner with majority control could decide the teammates he wants to play with. He could fire his own coach if he wanted to. He would have control over a lot of personnel decisions. Granted, any sale of a team would have to be approved by David Stern, and he probably (and rightfully) would never allow the deal to go through. But even without ownership, a player with the kind of money to rival an owner could still exert enough of a sway to be disconcerting. Think along the lines of Michael Jordan with the Washington Wizards.
As I mentioned, with the Nets, LeBron would still be a second banana in operations with Prokhorov as the owner. But be warned.