Tycoon considers assisting Nets' plan

MOSCOW -- Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is considering a deal with the New Jersey Nets to help fund the construction of their new arena.

Igor Petrov, spokesman for the tycoon's investment vehicle Onexim, told The Associated Press on Friday that "there is a possibility" that Prokhorov would participate in the construction of the new arena for the NBA team. Petrov declined further comment.

Russia's leading business daily Kommersant reported Friday that as part of a deal Prokhorov would provide a loan for the Nets and receive a large stake in the team in return.

Nets owner Bruce Ratner faces a crucial December deadline for his plan to build an arena in Brooklyn, N.Y., and move his team there in 2011. The construction needs to break ground by then or lose access to the tax-free bonds financing much of the project.

Ratner unveiled a revamped plan for the arena last week, the second new one since the project's original architect, Frank Gehry, was jettisoned because his $1 billion design was too expensive.

Prokhorov, who owns a share in the Russian basketball team CSKA, has been ranked as the country's richest man in the Russian edition of Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9.5 billion. While most of his Russian peers saw their industrial empires crumble and lined up for state bailouts, Prokhorov had cashed out of some lucrative assets before the downturn battered commodity markets.