As widely expected, the National Basketball Association’s NBA Board of Governors has unanimously approved the sale of the Brooklyn Nets to Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai.
Tsai has purchased 51 per cent of the the Nets he didn’t already own from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and will also gain control of the team’s venue, the Barclays Center, in a deal valuing the team at reported $2.35bn. The figure sets a new record for the most expensive team sale in US pro sports history.
“We are thrilled that Joe Tsai is becoming the principal owner and governor of the Brooklyn Nets,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “In addition to being a passionate basketball fan, Joe is one of China’s preeminent internet, media and e-commerce pioneers and his expertise will be invaluable in the league’s efforts to grow the game in China and other global markets.”
The Barclays Center added roughly another $1.15 bn to bring the full value of Tsai’s takeover to about $3.5 bn, including debt. The deal accelerates by two years a prior schedule for Tsai to gain majority control of the Nets.
“With full ownership of the Nets and Barclays Center, we will continue to bring our exciting brand of basketball to our fans,” Tsai said. “We’ve made a strong commitment to Brooklyn and it will be a privilege to present the best of Barclays Center with its great entertainment to our community.”
Former Turner president David Levy has also been named the chief executive officer of the Nets and the Barclays Center, a move that was tipped earlier this week. He will also serve as president of J Tsai Sports, the sports investment and holding vehicle controlled by Tsai, and join Tsai’s family office as a venture partner overseeing the company’s global sports, media, and entertainment investments.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to capture the growth of sports globally,” Levy said. “J Tsai Sports is in a unique position to leverage our global resources and a strong portfolio of sports, entertainment, and technology holdings to create value for our existing franchises as well as invest in new ventures for growth.”
Other J Tsai Sports holdings besides the Nets and Barclays Center include the Women’s National Basketball Association’s New York Liberty, the San Diego Seals of the National Lacrosse League, and investments in the Premier Lacrosse League, Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC, and various sports media and technology companies in both North America and Asia.
As for the Nets specifically, the team is definitely on the rise after reaching the playoffs last season for the first time in four years and landing coveted free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving during the offseason. The signings immediately generated franchise record-level boosts in merchandise and ticket sales.
“Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have done a terrific job instilling a winning culture and I am looking forward to supporting them as we build a sustainable foundation of success on and off the court. I am excited for our fans and can’t wait to get started,” Levy said.