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Prokhorov's Team? Start With French Banker, Add Russians, Americans

Christophe Charlier (Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment)
Christophe Charlier (Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment)

So who is the "current structure", this "Team Prokhorov" that will deal with "day-to-day decision making" while  "Mikhail continues to be a great supporter and fan"...and leader of Pravoe Delo ("Right Cause") political party?

It includes, of course, Billy King, Bobby Marks and Avery Johnson as well as Brett Yormark, team CEO, and Leo Ehrline, chief administrative officer.  But it also includes a group of mostly Russian, mostly Moscow-based executives who Prokhorov has long trusted.  Known inside the Nets as "Team Russia" or "Team Prokhorov", it's increasingly taken a larger role in running franchise operations, including with the arrival of former CSKA Moscow GM Sergey Kushchenko, some basketball operations.

Key players include French banker Christophe Charlier, chairman of the board of the Nets and the man with overall responsibility for team operations; Russian lawyer and executive Dmitry Razumov, the official who works the business side; Russian executive Irina Pavlova, who coordinates Prokhorov's interests with those of Bruce Ratner; Kushchenko who was recently added to the board of directors where he sits with Charlier and Pavlova; and two Moscow-based Americans who have long worked with Prokhorov and provide legal and public relations advice. Here's some thumbnails.

Mikhail Prokhorov, Russian, Principal Owner, Nets Basketball, and Former President, 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 (Polyus Gold, UC Rusal) 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). His latest projects include a plan to produce Russia’s first hybrid car. In June 2011, he was elected leader of the Pravoe Delo ("Right Cause"), a liberal, pro-business political party, leading to his resignation as president of Onexim.

One of the world's richest men with a fortune estimated at as much as $22 billion, 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 46.

Christophe Charlier, French, Deputy CEO of Onexim and Chairman of the Board, Nets Basketball

Christophe Charlier is Chairman of the Board of Nets Basketball and a member of the board of Brooklyn Arena LLC.  He is also 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. He serves on the Board of Directors of Brooklyn Arena LLC, the company developing Barclays Center; Renaissance Capital; Rusal Global Management and Quadra, companies  involved in finance, mining and consumer energy production owned in large measure by Prokhorov. All are financed by Onexim.

Prior to joining Onexim, Charlier was Director of Strategic Development and Mergers & Acquisitions (M&M) at Norilsk Nickel 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 Miton Lee, now GM of the Springfield Armor and formerly Nets director of basketball operations. Like Razumov, Charlier worked on the Prudential Center lease and has overall control of the basketball and business sides.He is 39.

Sergey Kushchenko, Russian, Executive Director, Russian Biathlon Union, and director, Nets Baskeetball

Kushchenko is Prokhorov's most trusted sports executive.  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 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 heads.  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. 

Kushchenko got to know Avery Johnson in August when the new Nets head coach visited Moscow on a family vacation.  Kushchenko organized a basketball scrimmage for Johnson at the CSKA training facility.  He's 50. He was named to the Nets board of directors on his 50th birthday in May 2011. He spoke of his role with the Nets in an interview with NetsDaily in June.

Dmitry Razumov, Russian, CEO of Onexim Group

Before shifting his focus to financial ventures, early into his career Dmitry Razumov practiced business and corporate law at 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. 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 the ё-mobile, Prokhorov's hybrid car, in negotiations involving RUSAL and Norilsk Nickel, in getting Polyus listed on the London Stock Exchange.

He graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations (International Law Faculty).

Razumov is Prokhorov's closest advisor on business issues regarding the Nets.  Last year, 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 when Prokhorov had his first tour of "The Rock". Billy King has said that  whenever the Nets front office wants to make big money decisions, he calls Razumov or Prokhorov to sign off. Avery Johnson says he is in regular contact with Razumov.  He holds no official position with the Nets 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.

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 and facilitating the construction of Barclays Center, 45% owned by Onexim.  She has no 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 was recently named a director of both Nets Basketball and Brooklyn Arena, LLC, the Ratner-Prokhorov partnership that is building Barclays Center.

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 will operate out of a 2,500 square foot office in the Seagram Building in midtown Manhattan.

She is the daughter of a United Nations interpreter who grew up in Russia and the United States. 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 and 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.)

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.  She was Prokhorov's first management appointment.  Several of Onexim Group's top officers are women, including its chief financial officer. Pavlova is 40.

Todd D. Schafer, American, Partner, Hogan Lovells

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.  In short, he is Prokhorov's US counsel and in 2010 he served as a director on the board of the Nets.

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, 49, 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.

Ellen Pinchuk, American, Director of International Projects, 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. 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."

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.