NJ Nets owner Prokhorov to enter politics?

Pensive Prokhorov plays party politics.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the NJ Nets, said Monday that he was seeking to head a Russian pro-business political party as the country gets ready to hold parliamentary elections.

“I have sent my proposal to the leadership of the Right Cause party,” Prokhorov said, according to Reuters. “Now the decision is with them.” Party co-chairman Leonid Gozman confirmed the move via Twitter.

Prokhorov, worth $18 billion according to Forbes, has hinted at playing with politics before. Last year, there were rumors that he wanted to become governor of Krasnoyarsk.

Reuters frames the story as though Prokhorov’s candidacy would be an affront, or at least a shock, to the powers that be. “Leadership of Right Cause would make Prokhorov the first top Russian businessman to enter party politics since the 2003 arrest of former oil magnate Khodorkovsky, who is still in jail and whose company was carved up and sold by the state,” they write. True, the Kremlin expects loyal oligarchs these days, but that doesn’t mean they have to stay entirely out of politics (witness Roman Abramovich’s involvement, however party-less, in Chukotka). And Prokhorov remained one of the richest men in Russia throughout the devastating financial crisis by playing by the Kremlin’s rules (a bit of luck helped).

Right Cause is a pro-business party founded two years ago. It holds no seat in the State Duma, which is due to hold elections at the end of the year. It is not very well known (pollster VTsIOM, for example, doesn’t even include it in its polls). It did make waves though when Yevgeny Chichvarkin, the former millionaire owner of mobile phone shop Yevroset and a member of the party, was forced to flee the country amid what he said was a corrupt attempt to steal his business.