clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:


Alibaba Group Executive Vice-Chairman Joe Tsai at the SCMP Town Hall Meeting at Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay. 24MAR16 SCMP/Jonathan Wong Photo by Jonathan Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Joe Tsai, who bought 49 percent of the Nets last year for more than a billion dollars, will take control of the franchise from Mikhail Prokhorov, perhaps as early as week, the New York Post reported Tuesday night.

Brian Lewis and Josh Kosman reported that the final sale price of $2.35 billion will make the deal the most expensive in US sports history.

The $2.35 billion transaction would mark the highest price ever paid for a sports franchise — beating hedge fund owner David Tepper’s $2.2 billion acquisition last year of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, and Tilman Fertitta’s $2.2 billion purchase of the NBA’s Houston Rockets in 2017.

The Nets declined to comment but two league sources tell NetsDaily the Post story is accurate. Separately, there are reports that Tsai may also purchase control of Barclays Center, which is also currently owned by Prokhorov. Tsai told NetsDaily back in May that he hoped he could “participate” in the arena ownership. Two months earlier, the Post reported the two sides were in negotiations. The price tag for the arena could be as high as one billion dollars ... on top of the team sale. It would solve a problem for Tsai’s ownership of the Liberty. The WNBA team is playing all but one of its home games this season at the 89-year-old Westchester County Center. Tsai would like to see the team move to Barclays next season.

The 55-year-old businessman who helped build Alibaba into Asia’s biggest e-commerce company, purchased 49 percent of the team in May 2018 with an option to buy the remaining 51 percent before the 2021-2022 basketball season for an additional $1.35 billion. The Post report indicates that that time frame has been accelerated.

The sale would give Tsai control of the Nets; the Long Island Nets, the G-League affiliate, and Nets Gaming Crew, the NBA2K franchise, as well as the New York Liberty which he purchased in January of this year. Tsai would become one of only four NBA owners to control NBA, G League, WNBA and esports teams. He is also a member of the board of NBA China, an NBA subsidiary with revenues of more than $100 million. The combination — plus the Nets success in free agency— should make Tsai one of the league’s most powerful owners.

He also owns the San Diego Seals, a box lacrosse franchise with the National Lacrosse League and has invested in the Premier Lacrosse League, a new lacrosse league.

The sale, if completed this week, will come a month and a half after the team signed two All-NBA players, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, as well as DeAndre Jordan, one of the NBA’s top defenders over the past decade. The moves have dramatically increased the franchise value. Team officials have told NetsDaily that team revenues are expected to jump 10 to 15 percent this season as a result of the additions. Season ticket sales are at an all-time high with endorsement and sponsorship revenues jumping as well.

Tsai has an estimated net worth of $10.2 billion, according to Bloomberg News, a few hundred million less than Prokhorov. Both are among the 150 richest people in the world. Tsai, born in Taiwan, also holds Canadian citizenship. He spent his formative years in the U.S., graduating from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and holds both undergraduate and law degrees from Yale. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, wooed Tsai to China in the mid-90’s and the two built the company into the Asian version of Amazon, with $56.152 billion in revenues last year. Tsai’s wife, Clara Wu, is one of the prime movers in Meek Mills’ Reform Alliance and the two have made substantial contributions to their alma maters, Yale and Stanford.

Tsai and Wu have residences in Hong Kong and LaJolla, California. They have three children.

For the Nets, the sale would mark the end of Prokhorov’s decade as team owner. The Russian oligarch agreed to buy the Nets in September 2009, purchasing 80 percent of the team and 45 percent of the yet-unbuilt arena for $223 million in cash, plus an agreement to cover $160 million in team debt. He also laid out $60 million to cover basketball operations, $4 million of which he used to break the Nets lease on IZOD Center and move the team to Newark while Barclays was being completed.. He later bought out other investors in both the team and arena, giving him total control.

Overall, Prokhorov helped finance the construction of Barclays Center and paid out $52 million to build HSS Training Center, the Nets training facility in Industry City. Of course, he also paid out more than $123 million in luxury taxes in the Nets failed attempt to win an NBA championship half a decade ago.

And he hired Sean Marks.