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NBA (National Basketball Association)

Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai to buy 49 per cent of Brooklyn Nets

Billionaire executive vice-chairman of Chinese e-commerce group set to take over as controlling owner of basketball franchise in 2021

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 October, 2017, 11:32am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 October, 2017, 10:56pm

Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai has agreed on a deal to buy a 49 per cent stake in National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise the Brooklyn Nets.

The billionaire executive vice-chairman of the mainland ­e-commerce giant is said to have the option to take over as controlling owner from Mikhail Prokhorov in four years.

The price of Tsai’s stake will be based on a US$2.3 billion valuation of the team. The NBA’s board of governors must first approve the sale.

That sum would surpass the NBA record US$2.2 billion paid last month by American businessman and television personality Tilman Fertitta for the Houston Rockets.

Taiwan-born Tsai is an avid sports fan and already owns a US team, having been awarded the new San Diego franchise of the National Lacrosse League in ­August.

Tsai, 53, played lacrosse in his high school days at Lawrenceville School in the US state of New ­Jersey. He also played at Yale where he was an undergraduate and then studied law. He has followed the NBA for years, having played the sport recreationally during his education in the US.

“We are fortunate to have set up Alibaba,” Tsai said in a media release.

“We work hard to make business less difficult and to help companies develop better in this world.

“In return, Alibaba asks me to contribute back to my favourite sport, which at the same time can make more Chinese people healthier and happier.

“No other things can make my life happier than this kind of positive circle.”

Russian billionaire Prokhorov bought the Nets in 2010 and took the franchise from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

He is set to retain a 20 per cent share as a minority owner in 2021 if Tsai takes up the option, but will retain ownership of the team’s home arena, the US$1 billion ­Barclays Centre, which opened in 2012. Tsai will be looking to revive the fortunes of a franchise that reached the play-offs for three straight seasons from 2013 to 2015 under Prokhorov’s ownership.

They had an NBA worst 20-62 record last season, and won just 21 games the previous season.

The Nets suffered a blow in their 2017 opener when ­Taiwanese-American star Jeremy Lin picked up a season-ending knee injury.

However, they did manage a shock victory over defending NBA champions the Cleveland ­Cavaliers on their way to a ­surprise 3-3 record this season, which has them ninth in the standings.

Alibaba Group is the owner of the South China Morning Post