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AP: Joe Tsai close to buying New York Liberty

Alibaba Group Celebrates Opening of Olympic Showcase Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images

AP’s Doug Feinberg reports that Joe Tsai, the Nets minority owner, is close to buying the New York Liberty, the WNBA team James Dolan’s MSG has been trying to unload for 14 months.

Feinberg, AP’s national WNBA writer, reports...

An investment group led by the co-founder of the Alibaba Group is close to a deal to buy the Liberty, a person familiar with the purchase told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person, who said the deal could be done within a week, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. The WNBA’s regular season begins in May.

Dolan put the money-losing team up for sale for more than a year ago. Other deals fell through. In the meantime, the Liberty exited the Garden, playing its games last season at the Westchester Civic Center, also home of the Knicks’ G League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks. Dolan’s representatives have said the operation has lost more than $100 million over its history.

The Liberty have made the WNBA playoffs in 14 of its 20 years and have played in the WNBA Finals four times, falling to the Houston Comets in 1997, 1999, and 2000, and losing to the Los Angeles Sparks in 2002.

Tsai agreed to buy 49 percent of the Nets last spring for as much as $1.1 billion dollars, using a unit of his private investment firm, Blue Pool Capital. Under the agreement with Mikhail Prokhorov, the co-founder and executive vice chairman of Alibaba has the option to buy control of the Nets in two years.

So, if all goes well, Tsai could control both an NBA and WNBA franchise.

No word in the AP story on whether Tsai would keep the Liberty in New York, move the team to Barclays or Nassau Coliseum, both of which are controlled by Prokhorov’s BSE Global. He also owns the National Lacrosse League franchise in San Diego, where he lives when in the U.S. Tsai, who holds Canadian and Taiwanese citizenship, also has a residence in Hong Kong.

FanSided’s Carly Grenfell calls Tsai a potential savior for the Liberty.

The Liberty averaged fewer than 3,000 fans last season in what could be considered a glorified high school gym. Things haven’t necessarily been glamorous all around for either the team or front office. And although more wins will certainly help New York’s case on the attendance front, Brooklyn is still a perfect market to build a WNBA fanbase. There is untapped potential there.

Tsai’s net worth is estimated at around $9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.