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Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's richest man, is close to completing a deal to buy the New Jersey Nets. Is he about to become a governor too?
Gazeta.ru cites two unnamed sources as saying Prokhorov has put his name forward to replace the outgoing governor of Krasnoyarsk, an aluminum-rich region of Siberia. Were he to be appointed, he'd follow in the footsteps of Roman Abramovich, one of Russia's wealthiest men, owner of the UK's Chelsea football club and a former governor of the far eastern region of Chukotka.
Russia's oligarchs are always keen to please the Kremlin, and that's never been more true than now, when they rely on billions of dollars in state bailout funds to weather the crisis. But Prokhorov is swimming in cash, having sold (some say at the Kremlin's bidding) his stake in metals giant Norilsk Nickel a couple of months before the crisis hit. Yet he's still keen to keep his good name with the Kremlin (tarnished by a prostitution scandal that some say prompted the sale), and that's likely what motivated him to apply — at least symbolically — for the position, if the report proves true. The report has a spokesman for Onexim, Prokhorov's investment vehicle, denying his bid.
While president, Vladimir Putin abolished direct elections for gubernatorial posts, so the Kremlin will make the appointment to replace Alexander Khloponin, who last week was called on to head a new district comprising the troubled Caucasus republics, including Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
It's a small world — Khloponin went to school with Prokhorov and headed Norilsk Nickel from 1996 to 2001 before entering politics. Business, politics. Politics, business. In Russia, what's the difference?