Mikhail Prokhorov became principal owner of the Nets on May 12, 2010. His interest in the Nets and Barclays Center is held by Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holdings USA, which is not part of Onexim, his $25 billion investment vehicle, but a separate company. His team includes mostly Russians, but also a French banker and several Americans he relies on for legal, financial, public relations and basketball advice.
His most important aides regarding Nets business are Dmitry Razumov, a Russian lawyer and business executive; Irina Pavlova, a Russian businesswoman stationed in New York; and Sergey Kushchenko, his long-time sports adviser who was Euroleague executive of the year in 2006.
Razumov and Charlier laid the groundwork for Prokhorov's acquisition in 2009 and 2010 along with Todd D. Schaefer, Prokhorov's American lawyer who moves between London, Moscow and New York. Another player, Christophe Charlier, the former chairman of the Nets board, played a critical role in getting Prokhorov invested in the team. He surveyed the Brooklyn landscape for Prokhorov in the summer of 2009 and recommended he buy into the team and arena.
The New York-based Pavlova, a dual citizen of Russia and the US, entered the picture in 2010. She was named president of Onexim, a Sports and Entertainment Holdings USA. Razumov, Kushchenko, Charlier, and Pavlova are members of the Nets board of directors, as is James Friel, a Russian-based American investment banker who's worked with Prokhorov's financial interests in Russia. All have been nominated by Prokhorov. The remaining members of the board are nominated by Ratner.
Here are bio's of each them and others identified as players in the Nets' acquisition and operation of the franchise, people in their 30's and 40's who have already shaped the team and Barclays Center and will continue to in the coming years.
Mikhail Prokhorov, Russian, Principal Owner, Nets Basketball, and Founder, Onexim Group
Mikhail Prokhorov was born in Moscow in 1965. His mother, Tamara, was a chemical engineer and his father, Dmitry, was head of the international department for the Soviet Sport Committee, which greatly influenced his love of sports. While still a student, Mikhail earned his first money unloading railway cars, and he then established his first business venture stone-washing blue jeans. He graduated with honors from the Moscow Finance Institute and began his career in the banking sector with the International Bank for Economic Cooperation and the International Finance Company.
In 1995, his Uneximbank acquired control of the Norilsk Nickel mining company. Mikhail became Chief Executive Officer of Norilsk Nickel in 2001, where he remained until 2007, when he sold his stake. In that year, Mikhail created Onexim Group, a holding company for his assets, which now include metals companies (UC Rusal, Intergeo, Uralkali ) banks (Renaissance Capital, MFK Bank), media outlets (Snob, Russian Pioneer magazines, FIT television channel, F5 web portal/newspaper, RBC, Russia’s foremost business news company), insurance (Soglassye), real estate (OPIN Investment and Development Group), electricity production (Quadra) and LED technology (Optogan).
In June 2011, he was elected leader of the Pravoe Delo ("Right Cause"), a liberal, pro-business political party, but after losing favor with the Kremlin, he resigned from the party. He ran independently for President of Russia in 2012 and finished third with eight percent of the vote behind Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who won with 61 percent and the Communists. Since then, he founded, led and then left Civic Platform, a new political party. In essence, he renounced business for politics and then after being disillusioned returned.
He has had several business reverses of late. His plan to produce Russia’s first hybrid car failed and he sold the entire project to the Russian government for $1. He had to bail out Renaissance Capital and replace most of its management. His investment in Uralkali, a leading producer of potash, a natural fertilizer, was hurt when of its Siberian mines collapsed into a giant sinkhole.
One of the world's richest men with a fortune once estimated at as much as $22 billion, the latest projections by Forbes has him at a little more than half that number. He also has a foundation that supports a wide range of causes, from sports to cultural development. The Prokhorov Foundation is run by his sister, Irina. Prokhorov is 50.
Dmitry Razumov, Russian, CEO of Onexim Group, Chairman, Nets Board of Directors
Razumov is Prokhorov's closest advisor on basketball issues regarding the Nets. Razumov and Charlier began to play key roles with the Nets at the end of the disastrous 2009-10 season when they met with Rod Thorn and Brett Yormark in Dallas at the 2010 All-Star Break, signing off on the Newark move, then flying Thorn on Prokhorov's Gulfstream V to the Vancouver Olympics where he briefed their boss on the impending deal. In May 2010, shortly after the NBA Board of Governors approved the sale of the company, he accompanied Prokhorov to the NBA Draft Lottery, sat in on interviews of candidates for the GM and head coaching jobs and made presentations to free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He was also on hand in June 2010 when Prokhorov had his first tour of "The Rock" and trips to Barclays Center during construction.
He frequently sits courtside when in New York,
Billy King has said that whenever the Nets front office wants to make big money decisions, he calls Razumov or Prokhorov to sign off. Indeed, Razumov spent much of the last week of June and first two weeks of July 2012 at the PNY Center, approving all the big deals, from purchasing the draft rights to Tyshawn Taylor and Tornike Shengelia to okaying the Joe Johnson trade. He served a similar role in 2013 during the negotiations for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, reviewing the details .... and okaying the luxury tax bill.
He held no official position with the Nets until last year when he replaced Charlier as chairman. He had said that he declined an official role in order to insulate Onexim and its interlocking set of subsidiaries from any legal liabilities of the Nets and vice-versa. In fact, Prokhorov himself is not on the Nets' board of directors. Still, Razumov is Prokhorov's indispensable man.
Before shifting his focus to financial ventures, early into his career Dmitry Razumov practiced business and corporate law with Clifford Chance, the big London law firm. He gained investment banking experience with Renaissance Capital, then the leading Russian investment bank. In 1998, he left Renaissance Capital to co-found the LV Finance, an independent venture capital firm that helped speed the success of MegaFon, the third largest mobile phone operator in Russia. He sold his interest in 2003.
Starting in 2001, while in his late 20's, Razumov served as Deputy CEO for Strategy and M&A of Prokhorov's Norilsk Nickel, Russia's largest mining company. He helped lead its transformation into a world class company through groundbreaking deals with international mining concerns, like Stillwater Mining Company, Gold Fields and Polyus Gold, and by pioneering corporate governance standards for Russian blue-chip companies.
In 2007, he helped Prokhorov found Onexim Group and sell off his 25% stake in Norilsk Nickel.
After Onexim's acquisition of a 14 percent stake in UC RUSAL, the world's largest aluminum company, Razumov joined the UC RUSAL Board of Directors. He stepped down from the position in November 2012. Since December 2008, he has been a Board member of the OPIN Investment and Development Group, a Moscow real estate company owned by Prokhorov. In June 2010, Razumov joined the board of the Russian nickel giant Norilsk Nickel. He was also elected a Board member of MMC Intergeo and Chairman of the Board of MFK Bank -- Prohkorov attempts to consolidate his mining and banking operations. Razumov also helped engineer Prokhorov's acquisition of a 50% stake in his old company, Renaissance Capital, a 50% stake in the Quadra utility company and a 51% stake in RBC, one of Russia’s largest media companies. He is also often the man out front when there's news on negotiations involving RUSAL and Norilsk Nickel, in getting Polyus listed on the London Stock Exchange before selling the stake in 2013 for $3.6 billion.
He graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations (International Law Faculty). He is 40 years old.
Christophe Charlier, French, Deputy CEO of Onexim and Chairman of the Board, Nets Basketball
Christophe Charlier was Chairman of the Board of Nets Basketball until last year. He remains on the Nets board. Charlier is the man who green-lighted the Russians' purchase of the Nets. After Bruce Ratner met with Prokhorov in Moscow in June 2009, Prokhorov dispatched Charlier to take a look at the Brooklyn project. In mid-August, he recommended the Nets start negotiating in earnest to purchase interests in the Nets and Barclays Center.
He has also served as chair of Optogan, which manufactures high brightness LED displays, on display on Opening Night at Prudential Center. He became Deputy CEO of Onexim in September 2008, leaving in 2014. He serves on the Board of Directors of Brooklyn Arena LLC, the company developing Barclays Center;
Prior to joining Onexim, Charlier was Director of Strategic Development and Mergers & Acquisitions (M&M) at Norilsk Nickel, then owned by Prokhorov, from 2002 to 2004. From 1998 to 2002, Charlier was Vice President of LV Finance, a corporate finance and venture capital boutique in Moscow. Prior to that, Charlier worked in the Investment Banking Group of Renaissance Capital in Moscow and in the M&A Group of JP Morgan in New York.
Charlier graduated cum laude with a BSE with a concentration in Finance from the Wharton School and a BA in International Relations from the College of Arts & Sciences of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was friendly with Milton Lee, now Nets director of minor league basketball operations. Like Razumov, he worked on the Prudential Center lease and has overall control of the franchise. When Prokhorov is not available, he will often represent the Nets on the NBA Board of Governors. Charlier is 42.
Sergey Kushchenko, Russian, Executive Director, Russian Biathlon Union, and director, Nets Baskeetball
Kushchenko is Prokhorov's most trusted sports adviser. From 2002 to 2008, he ran CSKA Moscow, building the basketball team while pioneering the business of basketball in Russia. A former deejay, he started in the industrial city of Perm, where he built a team from scratch, winning back-to-back Russian league championships. Alexander Gomelskiy, CSKA's Hall of Fame president, brought him to Moscow to run CSKA. In a 2008 profile, Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated called Kuschenko "open and sincere...in every way the opposite of the stern, cold authoritarian whom one would expect to be presiding over the Red Army club". Independently wealthy, he also cashed in on the privatization boom of the 1990s, becoming a manufacturer of electronic cables.
Kushchenko tried to put together a deal with the NBA in 2006 which for still unexplained reasons fell apart at the last minute. As Thomsen described it in a profile of Kushchenko: "CSKA would put up close to $10 million to serve as host of NBA events in Moscow, including the charitable youth event Basketball Without Borders and preseason exhibitions involving NBA teams. NBA and CSKA officials would work side by side in Moscow, enabling the Americans to grow their league in Russia while providing CSKA with expertise in transforming basketball into a market-based business. CSKA games would be broadcast in the U.S. on NBA TV." In many ways, Prokhorov's purchase of the Nets is the final culmination of that aborted deal.
When Prokhorov sold off his interest in Norilsk Nickel, his control of CSKA passed to RusAl, the aluminum giant. As a result, Kushchenko left CSKA in 2009 and became executive director of the Russian Biathlon Union, which Prokhorov headed. Both men left the Biathlon Union in 2014 after the Sochi Olympics. Russian won one gold medal in the final biathlon event. He also works with Prokhorov on various other matters, like the Association of Student Basketball, the Russian version of the NCAA, and the Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation.
He is 54. He was named to the Nets board in 2011 on the occasion of his 50th birthday.
Irina Pavlova, Russian, President, Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holdings USA and Director, Nets Basketball
Pavlova's main focus is serving as a liaison between the Russian and US sides of the business. She had a large role in facilitating the construction of Barclays Center, 45% owned by Onexim, and is now in charge of the construction of the HSS Training Center, the Nets new practice facility in Industry City, Brooklyn.
She has a limited role in basketball operations. Pavlova, who has lived in the US for more than a decade, attended Nets games the last two months of the 2009-10 season, familiarizing herself with the team's operations and toured the team's headquarters in East Rutherford in April 2010 before taking the job officially. She is listed just below Razumov and just above Brett Yormark, Nets CEO, on the franchise's front office directory. Yormark reports to her.
She is a director of both Nets Basketball and Brooklyn Arena, LLC. After first being named Onexim Sports president in June, Pavlova did an extensive interview with Ben Couch of the Nets staff, the headline of which was that she has no intention of "meddling" in the basketball side. She operates out of an office in the Seagram Building in midtown Manhattan which Prokhorov uses as his office when in New York. It was Pavlova's office where the Nets made their final pitch to Deron Williams back in July. In 2015, she was the subject of a lengthy profile in Grantland, entitled "The Fatalist."
Pavlova is the daughter of a Russian translator. She grew up in Russia and at the Russian embassy in Washington, where her father was stationed. Most recently, she was a partner at Jackson Consulting Group, a San Francisco-based investment banker. Previously, Pavlova was the Head of Google Strategic Partnerships in Russia, becoming the first Google employee in Russia. Prior to Google, she served as a Managing Director at Shoreline Pacific Institutional Finance and as a Portfolio Manager at Wentworth, Hauser and Violich where she focused on middle market equities. (She also took time off to travel the world, according to a recent profile. She spent time in Italy, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Argentina, Montenegro, Croatia, and Great Britain.)
She endeared herself to Nets fans in November 2012 when she helped two international fans who had flown to the US hoping to attend the opening game at Barclays Center. During the playoffs, she sat with members of Loud and Proud and played a big role in their transitioning to the Brooklyn Brigade.
Pavlova has an M.B.A. from Stanford University, an M.A. and B.A. from Moscow University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). She is fluent in Russian, English and Spanish. "She will work closely with the management structure of the Nets to create all conditions necessary for successful development of the team," Prokhorov said in a press release when she was first hired. She was Prokhorov's first management appointment. Several of Onexim Group's top officers are women, including its chief financial officer. Pavlova is 43.
James Friel, American, Managing Director, Co-Head, Russia and CIS at Rothschild
Friel is a recent addition to the Nets board, being nominated by Prokhorov in 2011, at around the same time as Kushchenko was named. An American citizen, Friel runs investment banking operations at Prokhorov's Renaissance Capital, coming on board in July 2015. For a decade, he had run investment banker Rothschild's Russian operations out of Moscow.
At Rothschild, he worked with Prokhorov and ONEXIM on various financial issues related to Prokhorov's mining interests, most particularly RusAl, the aluminum company.
Friel attended high school in France, then spent four years at Princeton, graduating in 1994 with a degree in Politics and Russian studies. He has spent most of his career in Russia, having worked for other investment bankers before joining Rothschild in 1996. He speaks Russian, French, Italian and English. He is 41.
Todd D. Schafer, American, Partner, Hogan Lovells, and Former Director, Nets Basketball
Schafer’s practice at Hogan Lovells, formerly Hogan & Hartson, focuses on international business, specifically mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures. Onexim is one of his clients.He served as Prokhorov's US counsel in the purchase of the Nets and served as a director on the Nets board.
Over the last 15 years, Schafer has served as lead counsel on many of the largest and most important transactions handled by his firm's international practice, including a significant number of deals in London which relate to Russia. According to one website that tracks international lawyers, Schafer is known for his "smooth handling of deals and excellent working relationships". Regarding the Onexim purchase of the Nets, Schaefer commented, "We've had the pleasure of working very closely and successfully with Onexim as well as the NBA, Nets and FCR/NSE and their advisors on this landmark transaction, and this is an excellent outcome."
Schafer led six partners from the Hogan Lovells team that advised Onexim on the acquisition of the Nets. Before shepherding the Nets deal, Schafer previously advised Prokhorov on his decision to sell Onexim's minority stake in Norilsk Nickel for $4.5 billion in April 2008--a deal that turned out to be a windfall for Prokhorov when the economy collapsed and Norilsk lost value. He advised Prokhorov on his moves during the heat of the 2008 worldwide economic collapse and his purchase of RBC.
Immediately prior to joining Hogan & Hartson, Schafer practiced with Covington & Burling. Before that, he clerked at the U.S. Department of Justice, worked as a legislative assistant on international trade issues in the U.S. Senate and served on the presidential campaign of a U.S. Senator. Schafer has lectured at leading universities, such as Oxford, and sat on several boards, including Stillwater Mining (June 2003 - January 2009), in which Prokhorov owned a stake.
Schafer received a J.D. from Harvard University Law School in 1989, a M. Phil from Oxford University in 1986 and a B.A. in 1984 from Vassar College. He is 50.
Ellen Pinchuk, American, Deputy CEO, Mikhailov & Partners
Pinchuk is Prokhorov's Moscow-based public relations counsel. She is generally credited with the public relations effort that produced the "60 Minutes", Bloomberg Television and New York Times Sunday Magazine profiles of Prokhorov as well as Prokhorov's successful two-day introductory visit to New York in mid-May 2010.
Pinchuk, a fluent Russian speaker, accompanied Prokhorov to the NBA Draft Lottery, ran his press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel and set up a brunch with beat writers during his May visit, then returned with him for the tour of the Prudential Center and a visit to the NBA Finals in June. She, along with Razumov, Charlier, Pavlova and Kushchenko, accompanied Prokhorov to the Nets' season opener in October.
Nets insiders call her one of Prokhorov's most trusted aides, particularly on issues related to the US media. One insider described her this way: "They listen to what she says. Very sharp. There's no BS and a good sense of humor." She will deny that she provides Prokhorov with one-liners for his US press conferences.
A native of Los Angeles, Pinchuk was a top Moscow television correspondent before joining Mikhailov. She worked for Bloomberg Television and Canadian Television in many of the world's war zones, including Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. She has also interviewed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin twice, once for CTV, once for Bloomberg, as well as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Prior to her career as a television correspondent, she served as a production coordinator for several television series and films.
Pinchuk holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and Literature and a Master’s degree in History, both from Harvard University.