SBJ/20100517/This Week's News

New owner quickly becomes face of Nets

Welcome to the Mikhail Prokhorov era.

The New Jersey Nets are wasting no time trying to recast themselves. The hapless franchise that lost $64 million is undergoing a transformation under the new ownership as the Russian Prokhorov finally takes control of the team.

If the first week of Prokhorov’s tenure is any indication, the billionaire oligarch will take a public role with the team as he begins the sizable task of rebuilding the Nets, who went 12-70 this season while ranking last in the NBA in average attendance with 13,103 fans per game. The team in fiscal 2010 lost $64 million under former owner Bruce Ratner.

The team rolled out a local media buy on May 13, the day after Prokhorov closed his deal, with the tag line “Meet Our New Big Man.” Prokhorov also will represent the team during the upcoming NBA draft lottery broadcast live on Tuesday on ESPN. On Wednesday, the Nets will formally introduce Prokhorov during a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan.

No wholesale management changes are initially expected under the new ownership.

“Our fans are really excited about our fresh start, from new ownership, to the draft lottery, to a new coach, to free agency and to a new home,” said Brett Yormark, president of Nets Sports and Entertainment. “We’re off to the best start in new season-ticket sales in team history, in large part because our fans see how committed ownership is to winning and because we have such a compelling story to tell.”

Yormark did not disclose the new ticket sales numbers.

Eight months since the purchase agreement was announced, Prokhorov finally closed on his deal May 12 to buy 80 percent of the franchise and a 45 percent minority share of the Barclays Center for $260 million. Prokhorov also will have the right to purchase up to 20 percent of the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn that surrounds the new arena expected to open in 2012. The Nets will play the next two seasons in Newark’s Prudential Center.

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