According to the New York Post, Joseph Tsai, co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is close to buying the remaining stake of the Brooklyn Nets. Initially, ownership of the NBA team was split between himself and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Sources close to the NBA side revealed that a deal is expected to be announced sometime this week.
When this astounding transaction goes through, it would mark the highest price ever paid for a sports franchise. The record was previously held by David Tepper’s when he acquired NFL team, Carolina Panthers for $2.2 billion. Similarly, Tilman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets for a similar sum in 2017.
Tsai owned a 49% stake in the team, prior to the full acquisition and he was gunning to buy the remaining 51% before the 2021-2022 basketball season for an additional $1.35 billion.
If Tsai signs off on the deal, he will be portrayed as exercising his right to buy the remaining stake within the Brooklyn Nets from Prokhorov two seasons early.
The sale comes at a time when the Brooklyn Nets are still high off their recent off-season buying spree, which landed them contracts with NBA All-Star free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Adding Durant and Irving to the roster is expected to help boost attendance for the Nets, which will also boost profits for Tsai.
Thought-provokingly the Brooklyn team ranked among the lowest in the NBA, two years ago. Brooklyn had been projecting that revenue for the 2019 season will increase by 10 to 15%. All this took place before Durant makes it onto the court, according to the Post.
The Nets signed Durant for $164 million, despite an Achilles tendon injury that should keep him on the sidelines for a year.
Forbes estimates reveal that Tsai — the vice chair of Alibaba, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon — is worth $9.9 billion. The Taiwan native is known to speak positively of the Chinese government, sources said.
But that is actually a plus for the NBA, which is seeking to grow its presence in China, sources have told The Post. Tsai is a member of NBA China, which conducts league business in that country, even though he doesn’t yet control a team.
Tsai also has been raising his US profile in recent months, including an appearance at Michael Milken’s annual Beverly Hills conference in April, which attracts billionaires like Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman.
According to the Post also reported that Tsai was in talks to buy the Barclays Center and the new Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, purchases that would pave the way for him to get NBA approval to buy the team. The NBA pushes its owners to also own their arenas, and that is one of the reasons Tsai will also be acquiring the Barclays Center, sources said.