Will the tanking Russian economy prompt its billionaires to shed their high profile holdings in the U.S. and Europe?
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is reportedly looking for a buyer for the NBA basketball team he bought five years ago, amid speculation that the his country’s shrinking economy may have squeezed his finances.
The 49-year-old businessman, worth roughly $11.1 billion, wants to unload the Brooklyn Nets, Bloomberg reports. A spokesman for Prokhorov told Bloomberg that the team is open to sale offers.
There are many reasons that Prokhorov, the first foreign owner of an NBA team, could be considering a sale. The team has suffered a dismal start to the season after a poor record last year, sinking his plans for a spot in the championships within five years. The team has also lost about $144 million in the last year, according to ESPN.
The billionaire may also be capitalizing on an apparently hot market for NBA teams after former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers last year for a record $2 billion. The Nets have been valued at around $1.3 billion, which means a sale could net Prokhorov nearly $1 billion in profits from his original, $220 million stake.
But as the Russian economy crumbles under falling oil prices and tough Western sanctions, the nation’s business elite are feeling the pressure. Last month alone, Russia’s richest 20 people — Prokhorov included — lost a combined $10 billion as the value of the ruble tumbled. They lost a combined $62 billion across the year, according to the analysis by Bloomberg.
And Prokhorov’s not alone. Russian billionaires have snapped up marquee items in Europe and the U.S., from sports teams to properties. There are growing fears that the downturn in Russia may prompt some of them to sell off their properties to cover losses.
Here’s a look at some of the highest profile assets owned by Russian oligarchs.
Mikhail Prokhorov, the seventh-richest Russian and the 107th richest person in the world, bought the team and a share of the team’s new Brooklyn arena, the Barclays Center, in 2010 (according to Bloomberg, his share of the arena is not for sale). The team made it to the playoffs in 2013 but still have little to show for high profile acquisitions of aging stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
In 2007, Alisher Usmanov bought an initial stake in the Arsenal Football Club and now owns about 30% of the team. The Gunners won an FA Cup title last year after a nearly decade long drought, but 2014 wasn’t all good news for Usmanov, who lost the title of richest man in Russia to Viktor Vekselberg.
The record-breaking $88 million purchase of a penthouse on Central Park West in New York City in 2012 was linked to Dmitry Rybolovlev, who made his fortune in the fertilizer industry. But Rybolovlev, worth $10.2 billion, could lose the property in an ugly and very expensive divorce settlement; in May, a Swiss court ordered him to pay a record-breaking $4.5 billion this year.
Dmitry Rybolovlev lives in Monaco, where he has owned a majority stake in the local soccer team since 2011 and helped the red and white bounce back from a lengthy slump to be one of Europe’s strongest competitors — and biggest spenders. Could a record-setting divorce settlement representing half his fortune (though he’s still contesting the court’s ruling) and the effects of the dropping ruble push Rybolovlev to change that approach?
Russian Vodka tycoon Roustam Tariko spent $25.5 million for an estate on Miami Beach’s Star Island in 2011, the largest Miami Beach sale in more than half a decade.
Roman Abramovich shattered the record price paid for British soccer teams in 2003 when he paid $233 million for Chelsea FC. The steel tycoon, today Russia’s fourth wealthiest man, poured money into the team — until it made a profit last year — and helped it become one of the best in Europe. The team has won three Premier League titles as well as Europe’s Champions League under Abramovich’s ownership. While Abramovich’s fortune has shrunk by nearly two percent in the past year according to Bloomberg, representing a loss of more than 200 million dollars, he has given no indication of wanting to sell the team.
Foreigners, including suspected Russian oligarchs, swooped in to buy up apartments in One Hyde Park, London’s most exclusive — and most expensive — residential tower. Some of the owners’ identities have been confirmed, like Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, who spent $220 million on an apartment. That was a record high spent in the U.K., until it was surpassed by another One Hyde Park buyer. But in the wake of the rubles plummet, Russian buyers in London’s luxury market have all but vanished, brokers told Bloomberg News last month.