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Mikhail Prokhorov sells Nets and Barclays Center to Joseph Tsai, keeps Nassau Coliseum

A general view outside NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum

A general view outside NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum prior to a game between the Islanders and the Flyers on Sept. 16, 2018. Credit: Steven Ryan

E-commerce billionaire Joseph Tsai has agreed to purchase the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center in a deal that allows Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to retain control of NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, according to a joint statement on Friday.

As part of the arrangement, Brett Yormark will step down from his longtime role as chief executive officer of BSE Global, which operates both the Nets and the Brooklyn arena. Yormark will continue to oversee the Coliseum operations, though it is unclear for how long. Friday’s announcement said Yormark “will announce his next career move in the coming weeks.” Yormark did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment also is retaining its ownership stake in the proposed $1.5 billion commercial and residential redevelopment plans at Nassau HUB. Onexim is partnering with Uniondale-based RXR Realty on the project, and Yormark has been a primary spokesman of the project as it goes through the approval process.

Part of the allure of BSE Global operating both Barclays Center and the Coliseum was the ability to cross-book events at both arenas. Sources say a partnership between Tsai's BSE Global and Prokhorov's Onexim Sports and Entertainment will remain in place, with some BSE Global employees expected to share responsibilities across both venues. 

Friday's statement offered no details to that end. It said only, "This transaction has no impact on Webster Hall and NYCB LIVE, including its surrounding Hub development, which will continue to be managed by Onexim."

Prokhorov holds a 49-year lease to operate the Coliseum in which the county receives at least $4.4 million in annual rent. The lease was originally negotiated in 2013 by then Nassau Executive Ed Mangano and developer Bruce Ratner.

Two years later Ratner sold an 85-percent stake in the company that operates the Coliseum to Prokhorov in 2015. Last year Prokhorov bought out Ratner’s minority share to become the Coliseum lease’s sole owner, a BSE Global spokeswoman said. County officials have said any further ownership change in the lease operator would have to be approved by the county legislature.

“This purchase will not affect the operations of the Nassau Coliseum nor the plan for redevelopment of the HUB site,” said Christine Geed, spokeswoman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

The sale of the Nets to Tsai was expected. 

Tsai co-founded the Alibaba Group, a Chinese mulitnational company that specializes in e-commerce. He bought a 49 percent stake of the Brooklyn Nets in April 2018. As a part of the deal, which valued the Nets at $2.35 billion, Tsai had the option to buy the remaining 51 percent of the Nets in 2021. Prokhorov and Tsai agreed to move up the timetable. 

In a statement, Prokhorov said Friday, “It has been an honor and a joy to open Barclays Center, bring the Nets to Brooklyn, and watch them grow strong roots in the community while cultivating global appeal.”

Tsai said in a statement that he is “the beneficiary of Mikhail’s vision, which put the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful… We are committed to maintaining Barclays Center’s iconic status by bringing together culture, community, and entertainment for our fans and everyone in New York.”

-- With Candice Ferrette

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