Joseph Tsai, the billionaire co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is close to signing a deal to buy the 51 percent of the Brooklyn Nets he does not already own from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, sources told The Post.
The deal is expected to be announced this week, sources said.
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.
Tsai already owns 49 percent of the team, which he bought for $1 billion last year. At that time, the 55-year-old businessman locked in the right to buy the remaining 51 percent of the team before the 2021-2022 basketball season, for an additional $1.35 billion.
If Tsai signs off on the deal, he’ll be exercising his right to buy the remaining 51 percent of the team from Prokhorov two seasons early.
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.
Indeed, the Brooklyn team, which ranked among the worst in the NBA just two years ago, has been projecting that revenue for the upcoming season will pop by 10 to 15 percent — and that’s before Durant, their biggest new star, even makes it on to the court, The Post reported last month.
The Nets signed Durant for $164 million, despite an Achilles tendon injury that should keep him on the sidelines for a year.
Forbes estimates Tsai — the vice chair of Alibaba, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon — is worth $9.9 billion. The Taiwan native is known to speak positively of the Chinese government, sources said.
But that is actually a plus for the NBA, which is seeking to grow its presence in China, sources have told The Post. Tsai is a member of NBA China, which conducts league business in that country, even though he doesn’t yet control a team.
Tsai also has been raising his US profile in recent months, including an appearance at Michael Milken’s annual Beverly Hills conference in April, which attracts billionaires like Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman.
The Nets declined to comment.
The Post reported exclusively in March that Tsai was in talks to buy the Barclays Center and the new Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, purchases that would pave the way for him to get NBA approval to buy the team. The NBA pushes its owners to also own their arenas, and that is one of the reasons Tsai will also be acquiring the Barclays Center, sources said.
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