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Joe Tsai purchase confirmed, Nets incredible summer continues

China National Team v New York Liberty Photo by Matteo Marchi/NBAE via Getty Images

With multiple big news outlets now confirming Tuesday’s New York Post exclusive on the Nets sale to e-commerce billionaire Joe Tsai, the team’s incredible summer continues.

Coming a month after signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the news cements the Brooklyn Nets as the NBA’s team of the summer ... if not all of pro sports.

With its $2.35 billion price tag, Tsai’s purchase of the team from Mikhail Prokhorov will be the biggest in U.S. sports history. It will top hedge fund owner David Tepper’s $2.2 billion purchase last year of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and Tilman Fertitta’s $2.2 billion purchase of the NBA’s Houston Rockets the year before.

Tsai, of course, also becomes the first ethnic Chinese owner in the NBA, pushing the Nets brand deep into China’s sports mindset. Tsai is also a director of NBA China. His company, Huangzhou-based Alibaba, rivals Amazon worldwide in various fields of e-commerce, including artificial intelligence.

Among the news organizations to independently confirm the move —and the likelihood that it will get done in the next 48 hours or so— are ESPN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday and several international outlets.

There were conflicting reports on what will happen with Tsai’s interest in Barclays Center, also owned by Prokhorov, with the Times suggesting the Taiwanese billionaire will “eventually gain control of that, too.” According to one league source, the final price tag of the team and arena could reach $3 billion.

Tsai bought 49 percent of the Nets in May 2018, with an option to buy the remaining 51 percent at a total cost of $2.35 billion. The option date for the final purchase had been January 2021, but apparently the two sides agreed to move up the transaction. Tsai had publicly dismissed the need to accelerate purchase whn he was interviewed by New York media, including NetsDaily, back in May. However, at the same time, Tsai talked about the value of “participating” in the arena ownership.

“I think the NBA definitely encourages the team ownership and building ownership to be combined under one roof,” said Tsai back then. “And I’ve talked to other owners and they tell me that being a renter is definitely not fun. When you own the building, you own your own destiny...

“If the opportunity arises for me to participate in the building in any way, I would love to do that.”

For the fan, Tsai’s ownership, at least on the surface, shouldn’t bring many changes from the Prokhorov era which saw the team go from New Jersey and the worst venue in pro sports to Brooklyn and Barclays Center. Tsai has committed to supplying Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson with the resources needed to make the Nets a perennial championship contender. Tsai and Prokhorov both have an estimated net worth of $10 billion.

“[Tsai and Prokhorov] have both shown the support we need from a basketball operations department,” Marks said in one of interviews after the height of free agency. “The ultimate goal for everybody is to win the whole thing.”

Tsai is likely to be a far more public presence than Prokhorov whose visits to Barclays Center became few and far between in the last several years. Tsai, with a residence in La Jolla outside San Diego and his three children in U.S. schools, has attended Nets home and away games, sometimes with his family, in the last two years.

He will also be generally more visible in the media. Prokhorov hasn’t spoken publicly to the New York media in more than three years, although he took questions from NetsDaily fans just after the big signings. Tsai, meanwhile, spoke to the city’s sports media back in May. On non-basketball matters, has become somewhat of a fixture on newspaper business pages and business cable, often criticizing President Trump’s China trade policies.

Tsai is also more familiar with New York, having attended Lawrenceville School outside Trenton and receiving both his undergraduate and law degrees from Yale at the opposite end of the metropolitan area in New Haven. On graduation, he worked in law and investments in the city ... and met his wife, Clara Wu, here. He left New York two decades ago to co-found Alibaba.

Perhaps most importantly for the Nets long-term is that Tsai will become one of the NBA’s most powerful owners. He will own a team in the league’s biggest market and be one of only four owners who control franchises in the NBA, WNBA, G League and NBA2K leagues. He is also already on the board of NBA China.

Indeed, the Nets are likely to become a much bigger presence in China where despite recent tensions the NBA is huge. Durant and Irving are both among the five most popular players in the NBA, as measured by jersey sales. (Don’t be surprised if the Nets somehow acquire a Chinese player in the future. Tsai told NetsDaily he would like to see that.)

What’s next, after the agreement is announced? The NBA Board of Governors will have to approve the sale, considered a formality. Then, expect Tsai to take questions from the media at big press conference. It will be an international event ... much like the rest of the summer.