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Brett Yormark: Nets sale talks began ‘last spring’

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

In an interview with VenuesNow, Brett Yormark says sales talks between Mikhail Prokhorov and Joe Tsai began “last spring.”

“I knew there was going to be an end to one chapter and the beginning of another. Ownership effectively told me last spring that (selling the majority share to Joe Tsai) was something they were contemplating. I extended my deal through December to provide oversight of the transaction.”

The sale, for a reported $3.5 billion, included both the Nets and Barclays Center. Originally, the plan was for Tsai, who purchased 49 percent of the team last year, to take over in 2021. Instead, the transaction was accelerated... and ownership of Barclays added to the mix.

In early May, Tsai told New York media that he would prefer owning both the team and arena. However, he also said he was prepared to abide by the original schedule, noting control was only 18 months away.

The sale of the team is pending NBA Board of Governors approval next month, widely viewed as a formality. The sale of Barclays doesn’t require NBA approval.

Yormark said his plan was always to leave with Prokhorov and his No. 2, Dmitry Razumov. (Prokhorov will retain at least in the short term ownership of Nassau Coliseum and two smaller entertainment venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn.)

“I’ve become very close to Mikhail Prokhorov and (board chairman) Dmitry Razumov. It would have been very tough for me to leave the company, knowing that ownership was going to stay on board.”

It’s also believed that Tsai also wants his own management in place as soon as possible. Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that David Levy, former head Turner Media, is a “serious candidate” to replace Yormark.

Yormark has been CEO of the Nets, Barclays and Prokhorov’s holding company, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment. He joined the Nets as CEO in 2004.

He told VenuesNow’s Don Muret that he expects to announce his new job next month.

“My goal is to announce where I’m heading in mid-September, assuming everything works out. I’m going to stay in sports and entertainment and look forward to build something and create value.”

Yormark said his greatest achievement was building Barclays Center, the first new arena in the city in decades.

“In some respects, what we did with Barclays Center is a legacy. Most people were doubters. They never thought we would be able to move the team from New Jersey to Brooklyn, let alone build a world-class venue that became a global destination.

“There were 36 lawsuits, years of delays and then in the midst of the financial crisis around 2008, we still hadn’t broken ground. Against all odds, we were able to do it...

“I’m happy I was able to play a role.”

As for his biggest failure, it was his attempt to bring a second pro team — the Islanders — to Brooklyn.

“You learn from all of your experiences, good or bad. The Islanders are a Long Island team, as indicated by their goals with Belmont Park (site of the NHL team’s proposed arena). They realized Long Island is really their market. We all tried to do something different and potentially special. We obviously had some ups and downs, but we all learned a lot.”

Meanwhile, Yormark told Newsday that the “strategic alliance” between the Coliseum and Barclays will continue even with the Barclays sale — and the split ownership. He added that the Long Island Nets will continue to play at the Coliseum, and that the two arenas will continue to share acts and events.