On Feb. 22, Mikhail Prokhorov, co-owner of the Brooklyn Nets and one of Russia’s richest men, sold his 37.8 percent stake in Polyus Gold International, the country’s top gold producer. Earlier this year billionaire Sergey Popov dumped his remaining stake in coal miner Suek. In January, Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg said he won’t invest his share of the sale of TNK-BP in natural resources.
Prokhorov, Vekselberg, and Popov all got their start as businessmen in the freewheeling days of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, when the government raised revenue by auctioning off state mines and oil fields, often at absurdly low prices. Some of the winning bidders controlled much of the economy through their dominance of natural resources.