Photo Credit: Sergey Rodovnichenko
Mikhail Prokhorov

Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian oligarch whose wealth was estimated at $11.4 billion by Forbes, arrived in Israel last Thursday on a scheduled El Al flight from Switzerland, an informed source in the Civil Aviation Authority told the Russian language Israeli news outlet Detaly (Еще один российский олигарх прилетел в Израиль).

Prokhorov, 57 the former owner of the Brooklyn Nets, was born in Moscow to Tamara and Dmitri Prokhorov. His maternal grandmother, Anna Belkina, was Jewish, which means he is a member in good standing of the tribe.

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In 1992, at the age of 27, Prokhorov partnered with Oligarch Vladimir Potanin to run Interros, a holding company that they used in 1995 to purchase Norilsk Nickel, one of Russia’s largest nickel and palladium mining and smelting companies. During the wild-west, un-regulated privatization of former state-controlled industries after the collapse of the USSR, Prokhorov and Potanin acquired the shares of the workers at Norilsk Nickel for a fraction of their market value and seize ownership of the company. When he departed in 2007, Prokhorov’s share of the company was worth $7.5 billion.

Prokhorov served as chairman of the board of MFK Bank from 1992 until 1993. In 1993, he became the chairman of the board for Potanin’s Onexim Bank, which, in 1993, became the paying agent for the Russian Finance Ministry’s bonds and a servicing bank for the City of Moscow’s external economic activities. In 1994, Onexim Bank became the depositary and paying agent for Russian Treasury obligations, and in 1995, it became the authorized bank for the federal agency dealing with bankrupt enterprises. Banks holding government funds earned handsome fees and paid minimal interest at a time when inflation was in the triple digits.

60 Minutes interviewed Prokhorov in 2013 and noted: “Kremlin leaders gave him what amounts to an insiders’ opportunity to buy one of the state’s most valuable assets. It was acquired from the Kremlin in a so-called auction for the measly sum of a few hundred million dollars in a process that even Prokhorov’s business partner admits wasn’t perfect, and probably not even legal under Western standards. But it was legal in Russia.”

60 Minutes interviewed Russian business correspondent Yulia Latynina about the auction of Norilsk Nickel, and she explained: “Yes, it was rigged. But it cannot be explained in normal economic terms to an outsider, especially an American. You had robber barons; we have oligarchs.”

According to Detaly, it’s not clear whether Prokhorov will remain in Israel or whether he has a different reason for the visit than making Aliyah. The outlet’s source reported that at the airport the businessman expressed his intention to repatriate.

Hevenu Shalom Aleichem?

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.