Russia's basketball oligarch blisters the Kremlin

Russia’s NBA basketball team owning oligarch-turned-politician is promising to bring a full-court press to the Kremlin insider he blames for his ouster as the leader of his political party.

Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia’s third-richest man with a fortune estimated by Forbes to be $18 billion, is best known in the U.S. as the owner of the New Jersey Nets franchise in the National Basketball Association.

The businessman built his fortune on metals, specifically gold and aluminum, before branching out to media, banking, insurance, sports and real estate.

Since last June, Prokhorov, 46, was also the leader of Russia’s liberal, western-oriented, Right Cause party. That is, he was the leader, until Thursday when he was voted out by 73 of the 75 party delegates. He also simultaneously resigned from the party.

Mikhail Prokhorov

The party’s campaign for the upcoming parliamentary election had been centered around the billionaire. By voting him out, it means Right Cause has virtually no chance of receiving the needed 7% of the vote to take seats in the Russian Parliament on December 4. The balloting is expected to be dominated by the United Russia party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Prokhorov blames Vladislav Surkov, deputy chief of staff to President Dimitry Medvedev, for his ouster. The 6-foot, 8-inch, sports ambassador says he “will do everything I can so that Surkov the puppeteer leaves his post.”

Critics say Surkov is the Kremlin’s architect of Russia’s “managed democracy,” where only officially approved political parties and candidates can compete in elections.

The Kremlin’s chief of domestic political operations is seen as the builder of loyal political parties and youth organizations. Surkov is said to have disliked the slate of candidates Right Cause nominated for the election.

“As long as (Surkov) is around, it is impossible to practice politics,” Prokhorov said.

By the way, Prokhorov also demanded the return of the $18 million he invested into the Right Cause party.

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