Joseph Tsai had wanted to get into the NBA game for a while and, back in 2017, put his money where he mouth was and spent $1 billion to buy 49 percent of the Brooklyn Nets.
Now, he is exercising an option to buy the rest of the franchise from Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
Tsai, the co-founder of Chinese shopping site Alibaba (think Amazon but for China, but larger than the American firm), will spend $1.3 billion to purchase the remainder of the Nets, reports Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
The $2.35 billion transaction would mark the highest price ever paid for a sports franchise — beating hedge fund owner David Tepper’s $2.2 billion acquisition last year of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and Tilman Fertitta’s $2.2 billion purchase of the NBA’s Houston Rockets in 2017…
The sale comes at a time when the Nets are still high off their recent off-season buying spree, which landed them contracts with NBA All-Star free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Adding Durant and Irving to the roster is expected to help boost attendance for the Nets, which will also boost profits for Tsai.
Durant is not expected to play for the Nets next season as he recovers from a torn Achilles. However, that only slightly quiets the buzz around a team that made the playoffs last season in the East with a scrappy young core and now added two of the game’s biggest stars. Ticket and sponsorship sales are expected to spike the next couple of seasons for Brooklyn, a franchise that reportedly has lost money in recent years.
For the Nets and their front office, this move means stability. GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson can continue on their rebuilding path.
Tsai was born in Taiwan, is a Canadian citizen, went to college at Yale (where he also got a law degree), and is worth an estimated $9.3 billion, according to Forbes. Tsai also owns the WNBA’s New York Liberty.
For the NBA, which is looking to expand its footprint in the Chinese market, this is a potentially huge development. Much of the NBA’s projected financial growth is international — it has positioned itself as the best basketball league in the world, with the top players and stars — and the Chinese market remains one of the fastest areas of growth for the league.