Billionaire Alibaba cofounder Joseph Tsai is taking full ownership of the Brooklyn Nets, he announced in a statement August 16.
To do so, Tsai will buy out Russian financier Mikhail Prokhorov’s 51% stake in the team for $2.35 billion, according to the Post. That’s the highest price ever paid for a sports franchise. The next-largest deals, Tilman Fertitta’s 2017 purchase of the Houston Rockets and David Tepper’s 2018 purchase of the Carolina Panthers, were both valued at $2.2 billion.
“I’ve had the opportunity to witness up close the Brooklyn Nets rebuild that Mikhail started a few years ago,” Tsai said in a statement August 16. “He hired a front office and coaching staff focused on player development, he supported the organization with all his resources, and he refused to tank. I will be the beneficiary of Mikhail’s vision, which put the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful.”
Tsai is also purchasing Barclays Center, the 19,000-seat arena in Downtown Brooklyn that the Nets call home, he announced in the statement.
Despite being ranked as the worst team in the NBA two years ago, the Nets are expecting a 10- to 15% increase in their revenue during the upcoming season after signing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in July, per the Post.
As Joe Barnathan at Forbes observes, the purchase creates an even wider lane for the Nets — and the NBA at large — to penetrate the basketball-hungry Chinese market. Not coincidentally, the Nets are set to play the Los Angeles Lakers in two pre-season games in China this October, first in Shanghai, then in Shenzhen.
Tsai, 55, made his fortune after cofounding Chinese online retailer Alibaba alongside the company’s chairman Jack Ma in 1999. Tsai is Alibaba’s second-largest shareholder, giving him a net worth of $9.5 billion, according to Forbes estimates.
Tsai first invested in the team in 2017, purchasing a 49% stake for $1 billion, according to the Post. That deal gave Tsai the option to purchase the rest of the team in 2020. In May, Tsai also purchased New York-based women’s basketball team the Liberty, the Times reported. The value of that deal is unknown.
Basketball teams are not an uncommon investment for billionaires. Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer owns the Los Angeles Clippers and cruise giant Carnival Corporation chairman Micky Arison controls the Miami Heat, Business Insider previously reported.