In 2008, a few months before he sat down with Bruce Ratner to talk about the Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov took on an even more disastrous sports venture, the Russian Biathlon Union. The year before, In 2007, the union's longtime president, Alexander Tikhonov, was convicted of plotting to murder a politician but was freed under a general amnesty program. Not long after, three of the team's top athletes tested positive for doping. And you thought 12-70 was bad!
But Prokhorov did what he needed to do: spent money, wisely. First, he went out and bought the best equipment for the rifle-and-ski sport, angering Russian nationalists by buying German and Swiss equipment. He invested millions in a new Olympic training facility for Russian biathletes in Siberia, opening it in November 2011, and installed his old CSKA Moscow basketball GM, Sergei Kushchenko, as executive director of the federation. (Kushchenko is now a director of Nets basketball)
He endured a lot of criticism, principally from the Tikhonov. There were setbacks including a disastrous performance in the 2011 World Cup of Biathlon in Maine. Now, he and the Russian Biathlon Federation are reaping the rewards. At Oberhof, Germany, over the weekend, Russia's biathletes starred in the latest round of the World Cup. Prokhorov couldn't restrain himself on his blog...
Bravo, bravo and again bravo! Under most of our Christmas biathletes made a real gift to all Russians. Four "gold" and six podium finishes on the World Cup in Oberhof - a triumph of the Russian team. Great work of athletes and coaches plus support for millions of compatriots at the TV screens - are the main components of the stunning Russian spectacle witnessed by the whole world. And of course - Lady Luck, without which the present conditions can not overcome formidable, well-trained opponents. But the main thing in this success - is hope. The hope is that we come and there will be new young stars on the sports scene. Hope for the impressive performance of our biathletes at the upcoming World Cup and the Olympic Games in Sochi. And in general - hope for the future of Russia's victory, not only on the sports stadium.
What's it mean for Nets fans? Well, it shows that Prokhorov, with smart management and an influx of cash, can make almost anything work! (Of course into each life a little rain must fall. Prokhorov and his guests had to evacuate a boutique hotel in the French Alps. The Post quotes "a spy" saying "many of those fleeing into the snow were 'attractive 20-something girls'." Things could be worse.)