It looks like Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has reached a deal to buy the floundering New Jersey Nets. What's Prokhorov's story, though? We did some digging, and here are five things you probably don't know about the man who could become the NBA's next owner. Unlike many fabulously wealthy men, though, he didn't get any financial help from his family. In fact, he got his start in the jeans business.
Although Prokhorov's parents weren't particularly rich, they were sharp. His mother was the head of a polymer research department at the Moscow Chemicals Institute, and his father also ran a lab.
Their son excelled in his studies and attended Moscow State Institute of Finance. After he graduated from college, he got a job at the International Bank for Economic Cooperation in Prokhorov put his money in an investment vehicle that would only have thrived in the late 80's: With the profits from his denim venture, Prokhorov continued to rise up the financial ladder. Although Prokhorov first grew to prominence in the financial sector, he made his serious loot in the mining industry.
In he purchased Norilsk Nickel during the wave of post-Communism privatization and built the Siberian mining company into a natural resources titan. One of his major coups involved investing in specialized Finnish freighters that could move metals around the Arctic without needing icebreakers. Just how big did Norilsk Nickel get under Prokhorov?
In he spun off all of the company's gold mining assets into a separate company, Polyus Gold.
Prokhorov ran afoul of French authorities in when he hosted a two-week Christmas party for his fellow Russian plutocrats at his chalet in the ski resort Courchevel.
This wasn't the normal sort of "Turn down your loud music! Police arrested Prokhorov on suspicion of flying prostitutes in from Moscow to service his guests. A raid on the hotel where many guests were staying resulted in 26 arrests, including Prokhorov and seven beautiful something Russian women. Prokhorov contended that his companions were just friends he had met at Moscow nightclubs. According to Prokhorov, he flew them in for the party and covered all of their expenses, but he didn't expect anything in return other than their company.
The billionaire told the police he liked the company of intelligent women and that "to stay young, you have to be surrounded with youth and beauty. Perhaps the best quote on the whole debacle came from Nicolas Sarkozy, who was a presidential candidate at the time. When told of the charges, Sarkozy quipped, "There's a man who wants to please. How could this guy not be Russia's most eligible bachelor?
The Russian press hangs on each of Prokhorov's adventures with the young ladies, and he's apparently had quite a few, including reportedly dating supermodel Naomi Campbell. A truly bizarre story about Prokhorov's love life broke in the spring of This wasn't going to be a storybook wedding, though; Prokhorov was allegedly marrying the woman only to divorce her one week later. Why would he act so erratically? To win a childhood bet. According to the Russian press, Prokhorov had made a bet with a childhood friend—both the stakes of the wager and the friend were unknown—that he would be married before his 42nd birthday.
Despite all the fuss in the European press, Prokhorov's birthday passed without a wedding, and the real secret behind Prokhorov's love life remains a mystery.
Prokhorov may see the Nets as a good investment, but he's also the sort of sports fanatic who might be Russia's equivalent of Mark Cuban. Prokhorov is extremely tall—estimates range from 6'6" to 6'9"—and played basketball in his youth.
He already owns a piece of CSKA Moscow, one of the top hoops teams in Europe. He's not just a basketball fan, though. Earlier this summer there were rumors that Prokhorov might try to buy the Italian soccer team AS Roma, and although the team has denied any sale, there are still whispers that Prokhorov may end up in the soccer business as well.
Forbes also notes that the oligarch "loves kickboxing. Read the previous installments here. Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks.
5 Things You Didn't Know About Mikhail Prokhorov | Mental Floss
This is about pounds. He wrote , "[L]esson 1: Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer.
In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design.
Keith Gessen: Meet Mikhail Prokhorov | The New Yorker
After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts powered by a home treadmill , various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue.
Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:. The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer when sufficiently trained on brick images to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters.
Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces.
So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.
After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software several times in fact to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent.
Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent and self-reinforcing corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.
Here's another video , focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts running at slow speed so puny humans can follow. You can also see the air jets in action:. In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories.
It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster.
At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth. Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story , followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project among other things.
Mikhail Prokhorov - Wikipedia
And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing! Facing a complicated legal maze, a bar in the southern Indian state of Kerala decided to construct a real one to stay in business, according to The Times of India.
Aiswarya Bar, a watering hole that sits around feet from a national highway, was threatened in after India's Supreme Court banned alcohol sales within feet of state and country-wide expressways to curb drunk driving. Instead of moving or ceasing operation, Aiswarya Bar's proprietors got creative: They used prefabricated concrete to construct a convoluted pathway outside the entrance, which more than tripled the distance from car to bar.
TIL when an Indian law required bars to be at least m from certain roads, one bar built a maze in front of its… https: Aiswarya Bar's unorthodox solution technically adhered to the law, so members of the State Excise Administration—which regulates commodities including alcohol—initially seemed to accept the plan.
Follow-up reports, though, indicate that the bar isn't in the clear quite yet. Other officials reportedly want to measure the distance between the bar and the highway, and not the length of the road to the bar itself. Amid all the bureaucratic drama, Aiswarya Bar has gained global fame for both metaphorically and literally circumnavigating the law. But as a whole, liquor-serving establishments in India are facing tough times: As Quartz reports , the alcohol ban—which ordered bars, hotels, and pubs along highways to cancel their liquor licenses by April 1, —has resulted in heavy financial losses, and the estimated loss of over 1 million jobs.
Aiswarya Bar's owner, who until recently operated as many as nine local bars, is just one of many afflicted entrepreneurs. Some state governments, which receive a large portion of their total revenue from liquor sales, are now attempting to downgrade the status of their state and national highways. To continue selling liquor in roadside establishments, they're rechristening thoroughfares as "urban roads," "district roads," and "local authority roads.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter! He Knows His Metals Although Prokhorov first grew to prominence in the financial sector, he made his serious loot in the mining industry.
He Knows How to Throw a Party Prokhorov ran afoul of French authorities in when he hosted a two-week Christmas party for his fellow Russian plutocrats at his chalet in the ski resort Courchevel.
He's a Sports Nut Prokhorov may see the Nets as a good investment, but he's also the sort of sports fanatic who might be Russia's equivalent of Mark Cuban. Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning. You can also see the air jets in action: Creative Bar Owners in India Build Maze to Skirt New Liquor Laws.
The Billionaire Behind the NBA's Newest Super Team, Mikhail Prokhorov | Bleacher Report
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