In a shocking development, the Nets and their CEO, David Levy, have parted ways, less than two months after the former Turner Media CEO was hired to run not just the Nets, but Barclays Center and J Tsai Sports, Joe Tsai’s holding company.
The Nets announced the move in a press release that named Oliver Weisberg, the Nets alternate governor and head of Tsai’s personal investment vehicle interim CEO.
The Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center today announced that David Levy and the organization have mutually agreed to part ways. Oliver Weisberg, Chief Executive Officer of J Tsai Sports and NBA Alternate Governor of the Nets, has been named interim Chief Executive Officer of the Nets and Barclays Center.
“I want to thank David for his collaboration over the past several months and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Weisberg. “As we enter an exciting next chapter of our organization, it’s important that ownership and management are completely aligned on our go forward plan. We are proud of the culture of the Brooklyn Nets under the leadership of General Manager Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson, and we look forward to continue bringing the best experience to our fans.”
Although the statement did not cite specifics, its tone suggested philosophical differences, which a source close to the decision-making process confirmed. The source said there was not one issue that drove the parting but larger differences.
Not long after the statement was released, Tsai tweeted out his appreciation for Levy’s work with the Nets.
David Levy is a respected media executive and a friend. Truly appreciate his efforts in the past few months. I wish him well in his next endeavors.— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) November 12, 2019
In a brief phone interview with the Times, Levy agreed the parting was mutual. “It wasn’t one thing,” he said. “It just wasn’t the job I signed up for. I wish I could say it was this or that, but it wasn’t what I signed up for.”
Levy was named CEO of Tsai’s entities —and a venture partner in Blue Pool Capital, his investment vehicle— on September 19. That was the same day Tsai’s deal to buy the Nets and Barclays from Mikhail Prokhorov was approved by the NBA. Tsai paid a record $3.5 billion for the team and arena.
In an interview with Mike Francesa of WFAN on November 1, Levy outlined a vision for Tsai’s operations that included a sport book at Barclays, mobile betting, all backed by 5G the fifth generation mobile technology, at Barclays Center. He even suggested that Barclays could be a test bed for new sports technologies that could then be exported to other venues and arenas.
Levy praised Tsai, citing his role in the growth of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant.
“Joe knows the opportunities around digital and the opportunities around social. and this where we are going to build the team,” said Levy who formerly ran Turner Media. “[That’s] how he’s focused on where he’s building his company Alibaba and where he thinks he can take the Nets, not just on a domestic, but even on a global basis... build this brand not just domestically here but build it on a national and global basis.”
Levy also said that Tsai was looking at purchasing an e-sports franchise.
In a discussion at Bloomberg’s “Sooner Than You Think” conference earlier in November, Levy hit some of the same themes in a session entitled, “What’s Next for the Brooklyn Nets,” but he also added, perhaps jokingly, “What I didn’t know with this whole situation when I took this job was that my job description was going to have to worry about US-China relations ... that’s all I want to say about that.”
However, a source familiar with the decision-making told NetsDaily that China was not an issue and noted as well that it was not one issue that led to Levy’s departure but more a sense the relationship wasn’t working “on a philosophical level.”
Tsai of course was embroiled in the NBA-China controversy last month after Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters while the Nets and Lakers were en route to Shanghai for the NBA China Games. In attempting to put China’s position on Hong Kong into a larger, historical context, Tsai wrote an open letter to fans that mimicked Beijing ... while also noting Morey’s right of free expression.
Levy has been sitting courtside at Barclays during Nets home games, sometimes with Clara Wu Tsai and Tsai’s children.
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