That’s the question raised by the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir yesterday, noting the vetting process for Mikhail D. Prokhorov’s purchase of the New Jersey Nets has progressed rather quickly, with the NBA refusing to who actually investigated Prokhorov’s business history. “we™re dealing with a Russian billionaire with global business interests that are not as transparent as prospective owners with extensive public holdings,” admits Sandomir, who at the very least tackles the same thorny issued previously raised by Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr.(D-Passiac), to wit, a prospective NBA owner doing business with a repressive regime that’s currently under U.S. sanctions for human rights violations.
Onexim Group, the company through which Prokhorov (above) is buying the Nets, last year bought nearly 50 percent of an investment bank called Renaissance Capital, a division of Renaissance Group.
Quinn Martin, a spokesman for RenCap, as it is called, said it owned no Zimbabwean companies and that its only presence in the country was in stock research. Attempts to independently verify Martin™s claims were unsuccessful.
He pointed to the sister company Renaissance Partners as the division of the group that he said was active in Zimbabwe. It owns a substantial part of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, which until 2003 was run by Gideon Gono, now the nation™s central banker. (Various reports at the time of the purchase of shares point to RenCap, not Renaissance Partners, as the purchaser.)
Gono, who is known as Mugabe™s banker, is himself on the sanctions list. Some Zimbabwean banks are on it. But the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe is not on the list. Robert Reid, managing director of Renaissance Partners, said in a statement that his company œhas had no dealing with individuals or companies on the sanctions list.
Pascrell chooses not to draw distinctions between the different parts of Renaissance Group, believing they are intertwined and thereby complicit in possibly flouting sanctions in Zimbabwe. Last week, he said in a telephone interview: œProkhorov owns 50 percent of Renaissance, it™s actively invested in Zimbabwe, and it™s got a stake in CBZ, which is a chief prop for Mugabe.
He also said that Stern had not taken any of this seriously enough.
œHe jokes this off, Pascrell said. œThis is a big joke to him.