Vote on Russian tycoon's Nets bid to proceed as planned

By Frank Pingue

Prokhorov, a nickel magnate and one of Russia's richest men, signed a letter of intent in September to acquire the NBA franchise and move the struggling team to Brooklyn.

"U.S. companies are not prohibited from doing business in Zimbabwe; rather, they are prohibited from conducting business with specifically-identified individuals or entities in that country," NBA spokesman Michael Bass said in a statement.

"The NBA is aware of no information that Mr. Prokhorov is engaged in business dealings with any of these individuals or entities."

According to Bass, Prokhorov's bid to buy the last place Nets is on track to be voted on by the NBA's Board of Governors once a firm date is set for the state of New York to take possession of the arena site, which he said is expected in the "near future."

Under the agreement, Onexim, Prokhorov's investment group, will invest $200 million and make certain contingent funding commitments to buy 45 percent of the arena project and 80 percent of the NBA team.

NBA rules require background checks on a new owner as well as approval by 75 percent of the 30 team owners. Prokhorov's bid has already received approving words from NBA Commissioner David Stern.

But U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell, who represents the eight congressional districts of New Jersey, asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner this week to investigate whether Prokhorov's company is in violation of breaching sanctions imposed on the southern African country.

"The sanctions are the law of the land, and I've asked the Treasury Department to investigate whether they were broken by Mr. Prokhorov's company," Pascrell said in a statement.

"Just as importantly, it is reasonable to hold the NBA accountable to do what they said they would do - actually investigate Mr. Prokhorov, his business affairs, and determine whether he is worthy of owning an American sports franchise."

If Prokhorov's application to buy the Nets for more than $200 million is approved he would become the NBA's first owner from outside North America.

It would also pave the way for the end of the Nets' stay in New Jersey after over 30 years in the state, and create a second team in New York -- home to the Knicks.

(Editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)