The owner of the New Jersey Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov, is seeking the leadership of the Right Cause party in Russia. The billionaire hopes to lead the middle-class, free-market group to support Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, in his re-election in 2012.

The Right Cause party is only two years old and holds no seats in parliament. It is believed to have been set up by the Kremlin in 2008 as token opposition to the ruling party in order to quell discontent. Its officials, however, maintain that it strives to break the hold of the dominant party in Russian politics, United Russia.

The industrialist bought 80% of the New Jersey Nets in 2010, along with 45% of Barclays Center, the new arena in Brooklyn in which the Nets will play when it's completed. Prokhorov has held a number of positions in Russian athletics and has financially supported CSKA Moscow, a sports club that emerged out of the Red Army team of the Soviet era.

Prokhorov made his fortune in metals. He owns 30 percent of Russia's top gold producer, Polyus Gold, and 17 percent of RUSAL, the world's biggest aluminum producer. The 46-year-old is the third richest man in Russia, according to Forbes.

Prokhorov's bid challenges Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has made a point of lessening the power of business moguls, and who is expected to run for president against Medvedev. The businessman said on Russian radio that he did not consult with Putin or Medvedev before seeking leadership of the party. The United Russia party, which supports Putin, holds 315 of the 450 seats in the Duma, the Russian equivalent to our House of Representatives.