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Seals CEO: Joe Tsai committed to fan base

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

The sports executive with the most experience in dealing with Joe Tsai says the Nets new owner is all about the fan base.

Steve Govett of the San Diego Seals, Tsai’s national Lacrosse League team, tells the Canadian Press, “He wants to win not just for himself, but for the fanbase. He feels like he’s the steward of the franchise, or of the franchises, on behalf of the fanbase. That’s truly unique.

“It’s a unique viewpoint in this world where you have owners that are self-absorbed and focused on themselves.”

Tsai, CO-founder of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, made the jump from entrepreneur to sports owner two years ago when he bought the rights to an expansion NLL franchise that would become the Seals. Tsai fell in love with the sport when he played for Yale’s lacrosse team as a student athlete.

The expansion team cost him $5 million. Since then, he’s paid out $3.5 billion to take control of the New York Liberty, the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center as well as a small piece of the LAFC of the Major League Soccer.

Tsai was also a member of a team of investors that lost the bidding for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

The Seals, in their inaugural season, had a 10-8 record, second in the NLL’s West Division. The Seals lost to the eventual champion Calgary Roughnecks in the first round of the playoffs.

Govett said Tsai spent a lot of time, energy, money, resources, on the team as well as extending the team brand into the larger San Diego marketplace.

“He is dedicated to the sports,” added Govett. “He’s a very very passionate sports fan, but he has very quickly and astutely understood the business of sports. He has truly amazing people around him — and I’m not just talking about myself — but the quality of people he has around him, they’re very thoughtful, they’re very intelligent, they’re very efficient.”

In fact, Tsai’s sports properties represent roughly a third of his estimated $10 billion net worth.

  • Govett, who’s in Brooklyn this week, also told CP that Tsai relied on a small group of advisers to do the Brooklyn deal,

“What probably would surprise a lot of people is that the purchase of the Brooklyn Nets was done by an amazing effort of just three or four people,” said Govett. “As opposed to some of these transactions that are done by investment banks with three or four hundred people working on these things. Teams and teams of lawyers. He’s got pretty amazing people around him to be able to execute these transactions.”

Tsai officially takes over the team in late September with NBA Board of Governors approval.