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Mikhail Prokhorov on U.S. list of oligarchs. What’s it mean? Not much

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Mikhail Prokhorov is in final discussions on selling a 49 percent stake in the Nets to Taiwanese billionaire Joe Tsai and just concluded a deal with the Islanders ownership to move the NHL club back to Nassau Coliseum, at least on a part-time basis. And the trade season is upon us, requiring financial decisions.

So what does it mean that the U.S. Treasury put him and more than 200 Russian oligarchs, billionaires and officials on a list of proposed sanctions targets?

Virtually nothing. The Wall Street Journal reported on the Monday release of the list.

The Treasury Department said repeatedly in its late-night statement that the report doesn’t constitute a sanctions list and inclusion on the list doesn’t confer sanctions on those named.

However, the statement also said the Treasury reserved the right to use “all available sources of information,” including classified versions of the report, when making decisions about additional sanctions.

That may sound ominous, but the Treasury was expected to add some of those oligarchs —not Prokhorov— to its sanctions list, but did not. Sanctions would, of course, make doing business in the U.S. next to impossible. At the far end of the sanctions options, the government can seize assets owned by those on its sanctions list.

Moreover, Treasury had to admit on Tuesday that the list was drawn mainly from Forbes Russia’s list of richest Russians.

Prokhorov is not regarded as close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, at least not since 2012 when he ran as the liberal candidate in Russia’s presidential elections, garnering 8.8 percent of the vote. In the last two years, three of Prokhorov’s Moscow offices have been raided by Russian authorities after one of his media entities, since sold, investigated Putin’s daughter’s finances, among other things.

No word yet on what the status of the Tsai talks. Although there have been multiple reports that the deal is done in principle, the devil is often in the details. One question: how much control will Tsai be able to exert during the four years he will be a minority partner of Prokhorov’s. The reported deal calls for Tsai to become controlling partner in 2022.