New Jersey Nets CEO/president Brett Yormark was recently in boss Mikhail Prokhorov’s hometown of Moscow in order to conduct a little team business – no, not searching for prospects but more mundane stuff like discussing getting more Nets games on Russian TV. Happily, he took the time to give a quite extensive interview with Russia-based sports website Sports.ru in which a whole range of topics from Jay Z’s influence to possibly renaming the team was discussed.
A few excerpts run below the break.
Sports.ru: So, what led you to Moscow?
Yormark: Several reasons. First, our games should be on television. … on the two channels, NTV-Plus and Russia-2, about 150 games were shown, but few of ours. This year, I still don’t know how [the NBA games] will be distributed. They will definitely be on NTV-Plus, but I’m not sure about Russia-2. At least 30 matches will be broadcast in Russia – primarily important matches with contenders of course.
This is another step in the globalization of the team. We’re moving to Brooklyn, and [into] a global market. In general, when I came to the Nets five years ago, we began to promote a strategy of “going global.” And now, with the arrival of [Mikhail] Prokhorov, all these processes have accelerated. Michael wants to do the same.
Sports.ru: Anything aside from television?
Yormark: In Russia, we have great opportunities for development. The NBA also sees them, so they opened an office here. Thanks to Michael now owning a team in the NBA, our games will be broadcast [more often]. We have reached an agreement with Adidas, and our line will be actively marketed here in stores across the country.
In two days in Moscow, I had over 30 meetings with representatives of various companies: Consumer goods, banking services, insurance companies, advertising agencies. I studied the marketing environment and business landscape of Russia, how it all works here.
Sports.ru: When I spoke with Avery Johnson, he stressed the fact that [the 2010-11 Nets] will be a completely new team with a new culture. But the Nets were in the NBA championship twice in the past 10 years…
Yormark: Moving to Brooklyn still involves a major upgrade…
Sports.ru: And a new name, maybe?
Yormark: We also have to consider that…
Sports.ru: I’m very much behind “the Dodgers.” “The Brooklyn Dodgers” – it’s classic!
Yorkmark: (Laughs.) In any case, “Brooklyn” is a very strong word and a wonderful brand. It is probably impossible not to use it. In general, we like “Nets” [as a brand], too. And the Nets have quite a good history, so “Brooklyn Nets” isn’t bad at all, although we are still far from a final decision [on the name] and we’re not especially in a hurry.
Brooklyn gives us great opportunities for development – it’s 2,5 million residents. Queens is very close by, and that’s 2.1 million more. Directly beneath the [site of the new stadium], nine subway lines intersect, and there’s the railroad that connects us to Long Island: The Nets were born on Long Island. Before joining the NBA, we played in the ABA under the name the New York Nets. We … can count on those long-term fans and we’ll get new ones in Brooklyn, in Queens. And our fans from New Jersey who want to follow us will have the opportunity. It’s a new beginning in their own arena … It will be something special.
Sports.ru: Tell me about Jay-Z. What does it mean to have him among the owners of the team?
Yorkmark: Well, Jay is altogether stunning. I’ve known him well for several years. Last year, it became very difficult. He didn’t like what was happening [with the team, with] the image of the team. But now, with the relocation is quite close, he’s in a different mood.
He has a lot in common with Mikhail on some points, and now they can work together to change the team. Prokhorov is a winner first. He wants to win, he will claim victory, and he will give the team the energy to win. Jay-Z bringing celebrity status also doesn’t hurt. Especially in New York. So Prokhorov and Jay-Z together – this is very powerful team ownership.
Sports.ru: Does the new collective bargaining agreement and a possible lockout worry you?
Yorkmark: No, I don’t think about it. I can’t change it, anyway, so it’s business as usual, and this, in my opinion, is the only way to escape. We’re got an important season coming up with a lot of games, games in London, playing in China, a visit to Moscow. So many good things that we can focus on!