“I just did meet Mr. [Mikhail] Prokhorov last week in New York as part of the [NBA] interview process and was favorably impressed. For a billionaire, he's a people's billionaire. He's a regular guy with a whole bunch of money, seems like to me."
— Boston Celtics CEO Wyc Grousbeck in a recent appearance on NECN's CEO Corner.
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Dear Mr. Prokhorov,
We write to commiserate over what it is like for us people to struggle against tremendous political and corporate powers attempting to demolish our neighborhood to build a boneheaded boondoggle called Atlantic Yards. Us here in Brooklyn against the anti-people Atlantic Yards mega-development, you against the French gendarmerie. Us here against taxpayer rip-offs and eminent domain abuse. You in France -- er, never mind...that was embarrassing!
As you are a people's billionaire we are certain that you can understand our concerns and outrage. We mean, how would you feel if the French government seized your $634 million French Riviera Villa Leopolda and gave it to a billionaire—one of the richest men in the world—to build a football stadium? Not too good, we're sure.
Oh wait, indeed you are a people's billionaire; it has come to our attention that like so many others suffering the recession you couldn't follow through to purchase the $643 million villa and you want your $49 million deposit back. We're there with you on that. We're ready to storm the barricades if you don't get it back, because that's a lot of nickel for anyone.
Perhaps you should do as we do and present your point of view in the press; you can make a big fuss about the $49 million in the pages of your glossy SNOB magazine (a great name for a magazine, by the way, if you are attempting to hide the fact that you are with the people).
Anyway, we're not writing to discuss your humble villa, though you would know better than we that a man's home is his $643 million castle. Rather, we want to let you know that Mr. Grousbeck's words about you being a people's billionaire are heartening. Clearly you are of the people, that's why you like sports, just like we and all the other people do.
See, we know you are one of us and we thought you could help us since we have a common interest. As one of the people, you want to save money (as the Villa Leopolda thing proves). Who doesn't? And you also desperately want to own an NBA team, no matter how stinky that team might be. We support you in that endeavor. All people should own an NBA team if they want one. (We'd prefer to own an NFL team or the Mets.)
But see, we don't want Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Barclays Center Hangar Arena built on top of our neighborhood and our homes. It's a crooked deal—so crooked you could see the crookedness from Moscow, or even Alaska. It's the kind of deal the people always revolt against. Anyway, that's where your Nets would play should Ratner be so lucky to get past us people. See, he is a multi-millionaire, but not a people's multi-millionaire. So he has a hard time hearing us.
We know your hearing is better.
Anyway, about that common interest. We don't want this arena boondoggle. You want the Nets but you also want to save money. Well, we have a modest proposal for you.
Why not drop the deal with Ratner? It's only a letter of intent you have to buy the team, right? Why not tear it up, throw the pieces into the dustbin of history. You're with the people, right, so then you can help us—we are people after all—defeat Ratner's project.
What do you get out of it?
Well, then you can get the Nets for an even more melodic song than your current prospective deal with Mr. Ratner, and you can move them to a state-of-the-art arena that already exists (word is your people really liked the Newark Prudential Center), rather than the pie-in-the-sky, besieged arena and vaportecture project Ratner is surely telling you is a sure thing.
We can assure you, it is most decidedly not a sure thing. We would not mislead a fellow people person. And we're not saying Newark is nicer than Brooklyn, not saying that at all. We love Brooklyn. But we are saying that Newark has, uhm, an arena.
Instead of having to pay to get 45% of the most expensive arena proposed in the history of humanity, instead of constantly being called on by Mr. Ratner to bail him out and fill in his financial gaps, and instead of waiting years and years to move the team to Brooklyn if that darn arena is ever built, you can help defeat it. Then you'd have Ratner over a barrel and you can buy the team clean, clear and cheaply without all of the other baggage, and you can have them play in Newark where they are sure to be loved by the people.
You'll fit right in, and to us people you'd no longer just be a people's billionaire, you'd be a hero billionaire of the people!
Perhaps we can meet for a people's lunch to discuss all of this. And don't worry, we won't skimp, we'll pay at least $28,000 to feed us all, or we can go Dutch. It won't be Nello, but it will get us a lot of dirty water dogs (sans truffles, sorry to say). We could even go for a cheesecake dessert at Junior's if Markowitz isn't lurking around and finish with a beer at Freddy’s.
Let us know what you think.
Yours in solidarity,
PS. We know that the NBA owners still need to approve any sale of the team to you, but the approval of that out-of-touch group will be nothing compared to the support and appreciation you could earn from the people. Should the owners reject you, you'll always have us.
Follow Daniel Goldstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/degoldstein