The New Jersey Nets took big steps towards a relocation to Brooklyn and foreign ownership when they reached a deal worth more than $200 million with Russia's richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov, on Wednesday.
A letter of intent has been signed which would give the Russian control of the NBA franchise as well as fund the development of the Barclays Center, the proposed new home for the team in the New York borough.
"I have a long-standing passion for basketball and pursuing interests that forward the development of the sport in Russia," Prokhorov said. "I look forward to becoming a member of the NBA."
The deal, due to be completed by the first quarter of next year, would make Prokhorov the league's first owner outside North America, if he takes over from current owners Bruce Ratner and Forest City Enterprises.
It would also pave the way for the end of the Nets presence in New Jersey after more than 30 years in the state, creating a second team in New York - home to the Knicks.
NBA rules require background checks on a new owner as well as approval by 75 percent of the 30 owners but the plan received approving words from NBA commissioner David Stern.
"We are looking forward to the Nets' move to a state-of-the-art facility in Brooklyn with its rich sporting heritage.
"Interest in basketball and the NBA is growing rapidly on a global basis and we are especially encouraged by Mr Prokhorov's commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia," he said.
The Nets franchise has been based in New York in the past. The team played as the New York Nets in the ABA league at different venues from 1968.
(Reuters via China Daily September 25, 2009)