The NBA’s Brooklyn Nets have a new owner and a new chief executive — Taiwanese billionaire Joe Tsai (蔡崇信).
The Alibaba cofounder completed his purchase of the team — as well as the team’s home court, the Barclays Center — in a US$3.5 billion deal that was closed on Wednesday, the NBA board of governors said.
He spent nearly US$3.5 billion for the team and the arena, a record sale for a US sports franchise, and the purchase of the team was unanimously approved by the NBA board.
Tsai followed up the NBA’s announcement with one of his own: He had hired former Turner Broadcasting president David Levy to oversee the team and the center.
Tsai last year bought 49 percent of the team from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, with the option to become controlling owner in 2021, but pushed up the timeline for full ownership.
Tsai paid US$2.35 billion for the Nets and about US$1 billion in a separate transaction for the arena.
The team price surpassed the US$2.2 billion that Tilman Fertitta paid for the Houston Rockets and that David Tepper spent for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
Levy would also serve as president of J Tsai Sports, a sports investment and holding vehicle whose portfolio includes the WNBA’s New York Liberty, professional lacrosse team the San Diego Seals, as well as other sports teams and companies in the US and elsewhere.
“In addition to being a passionate basketball fan, Joe is one of China’s pre-eminent Internet, media and e-commerce pioneers, and his expertise will be invaluable in the league’s efforts to grow the game in China and other global markets,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
The Nets are to travel to China next month to play two pre-season games against the Los Angeles Lakers at the start of a season filled with excitement for the team.
In statement issued by the Nets, Tsai said the purchase represented a commitment to the Brooklyn community.
“With full ownership of the Nets and Barclays Center, we will continue to bring our exciting brand of basketball to our fans,” Tsai said. “We’ve made a strong commitment to Brooklyn and it will be a privilege to present the best of Barclays Center with its great entertainment to our community.”
The Taipei-born, California-based Tsai has a net worth of US$10.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1986 and a law degree from Yale Law School in 1990. He joined Alibaba in 1999 after working as a private-equity investor in Hong Kong for several years. He served as chief financial officer until 2013 and is now the company’s executive vice chairman.
The Nets were established in 1967 and won championships in 1974 and 1976. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this year.
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