Alibaba’s Tsai to buy Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Arena for US$3.5 bil

The Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, New York. (Reuters pic)

NEW YORK: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai is paying about US$3.5 billion for the Brooklyn Nets and their arena, the Barclays Center, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The agreement to buy the team and arena from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov may be announced as soon as Friday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deal isn’t yet public.

BSE Global, the parent company of the Nets and the arena, declined to comment. Tsai – who has a net worth of US$10.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index – didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

As part of the shake-up, BSE Chief Executive Officer Brett Yormark will announce his resignation tomorrow, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg earlier on Thursday.

The National Basketball Association prefers that one owner control the team and the arena where it plays.

Tsai previously bought a 49% stake of the team at a US$2.3 billion valuation, which is a record for a US pro sports franchise.

He had until 2021 to exercise the option to take control of the club, whose already-improved fortunes have buoyed this offseason with the acquisition of star free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

The US$3.5 billion price tag represents a hefty profit for Prokhorov, whose Onexim Sports & Entertainment in 2010 paid US$223 million for an 80% stake of the team and a 45% share of the arena.

In 2015, he consolidated ownership of the team and arena in a deal with real estate developer Bruce Ratner’s Forest City Enterprises Inc that valued the assets at around US$1.7 billion.

Prokhorov, the first non-North American owner of an NBA team, also controls the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.