It won’t affect the day-to-day operations of the Nets immediately, but owner Mikhail Prokhorov completed sale of a 49 percent interest in the franchise to e-commerce billionaire Joseph Tsai, the team announced Thursday afternoon. The sale, which was approved unanimously by the NBA Board of Governors, is the first step toward Tsai taking over in 2021 as majority owner.
The sale does not include Barclays Center, which is wholly owned by Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment. Based on what Tsai paid for his share, the Nets were valued at $2.35 billion, which would be a record sale price for an NBA franchise, a knowledgeable source confirmed to Newsday. Terms of the deal give Tsai an option to purchase a controlling stake in three years.
“As a lifelong sports fan, I am very proud to join the Nets ownership and the NBA family,” Tsai said in a statement. “I lived in New York in the early days of my career, and the city holds a special place in my heart. I share the vision and culture that Mikhail Prokhorov, CEO Brett Yormark, general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson have put in place, and I look forward to being a part of this great franchise.”
Tsai is a Canadian citizen who attended Lawrenceville Prep School in New Jersey and later earned a law degree from Yale. He is executive vice-chairman and co-founder of China-based Alibaba Group, a global internet company involved in e-commerce, cloud computing and digital entertainment.
“It was important to us that we choose a partner who shares our commitment to the highest standards as we create a truly wonderful NBA franchise,” Prokhorov said in a statement. “I welcome Joe to the organization and I am looking forward to working with him for years to come.”