Alibaba chief seals $3.5bn deal for Barclays Center, Nets

Joseph Tsai, co-founder of Chinese internet company Alibaba, has today (Friday) secured full ownership of the Barclays Center and NBA basketball franchise the Brooklyn Nets.

The deal, which was first reported earlier this week, sees Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov enter into a definitive agreement to sell full ownership of the arena and his 51% controlling interest in the Nets, which he has held through his company Onexim Sports and Entertainment, to an entity controlled by Tsai.

With the purchase of Prokhorov’s shares of the Nets, Tsai will become the sole investor in the team. Tsai purchased 49% of the Nets in April 2018 from Prokhorov in a deal that at the time valued the team at $2.35bn (£1.95bn/€2.1bn).

That deal granted Tsai an option to buy the remainder of the Nets before 2021-22 and become the controlling owner of the team. Official terms of today’s agreement were not disclosed, but Tsai is widely reported to have paid around $3.5bn, including debt, for the team and the Barclays Center.

Upon the closing of the arena and team transactions, which is expected by the end of September, Tsai will assume the role of chairman of the board of directors for Barclays Center, and NBA governor of the Nets and its affiliates. The transaction requires the approval of the NBA Board of Governors, which is considered to be a formality.

The current management team will continue to run the venue and team under new ownership. Brett Yormark, CEO of BSE Global, managing entity of the Nets and Barclays Center, will oversee the transition to new ownership before departing for a new role.

Tsai said today: “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. 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.”

Prokhorov added: “The team is in a better place today than ever before and I know that Joe will build on that success, while continuing to deliver the guest experience at Barclays Center that our fans, employees, and colleagues in the industry enjoy.”

Yormark was hired in 2005 to lead all aspects of the Nets move to Brooklyn and the opening of Barclays Center in September 2012, including the branding, marketing, event programming, and sales.

This was Yormark’s third stint with the Nets, during which he served as the team’s longest tenured business chief. He first worked in the ticket sales department in 1988.  He also oversaw the major transformation and reopening of NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, which is home to the Brooklyn Nets’ G League team, the Long Island Nets.

Most recently, BSE Global partnered in the acquisition, renovation, and reopening of the iconic Manhattan venue Webster Hall, which Yormark was instrumental in facilitating. Today’s announcement has no impact on Webster Hall and NYCB LIVE, including its surrounding Hub development, which will continue to be managed by Onexim.

Image: Brooklyn Nets