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Mikhail Prokhorov increasingly active in Russian politics

Civic Platform

Mikhail Prokhorov is still the principal owner of the Nets, still the man who controls the purse strings, but he is also increasingly a political force in Russia and particularly in Moscow, where on Saturday he confirmed he will lead his Civic Platform party into the City Duma --city council-- elections next year. If successful, he is expected to run for mayor of Moscow in 2016 and use that as a power base for his national ambitions.

Prokhorov gained eight percent of the vote in the 2012 presidential elections and the latest polls show his popularity on the rise. Although he often criticizes the Russian government and Vladimir Putin's ruling party, most recently on the judicial process, he has steered away from open criticism of Putin himself.

In a speech Sunday to a Civic Platform candidates forum, Prokhorov hit on several themes --the lack of technological development in Russia, its corruption and political stagnation-- without mentioning Putin by name once. He did state "Recently, as you know, we are becoming more like the USSR." In the past several weeks, he has publicly criticized the prosecutions of a blogger and a banker on what are seen as trumped-up corruption charges.

How might this affect his ownership of the Nets? His representatives have said it won't. His top two deputies, Dmitry Razumov and Christophe Charlier have been since the beginning managers of the team's basketball and business sides.

As a broader business strategy, recent moves suggest he understands the risks of political dissent in Russia. He has begun divesting himself of fixed assets in Russia. As Forbes wrote last month, "He recently sold off his biggest Russian asset, his 38% stake in Polyus Gold, for $3.6 billion. That’s on top of the $4.5 billion in cash that he presumably keeps outside of Russia–and out of the grasp of Kremlin meddlers."

What, if anything, happens next is known only to the Kremlin.