A Taiwan-born co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba has agreed to buy nearly half of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets with an option to eventually take over controlling interest from current majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, ESPN reported Friday, citing unidentified sources.
Joseph Tsai's 49 percent minority stake in the franchise will be based on a $2.3 billion valuation, ESPN's league sources said.
In the near term, Prokhorov and his management team will continue to oversee basketball operations in the deal that doesn't include the Barclays Center, the team's home owned by Prokhorov, who expects to negotiate a new long-term lease soon.
Tsai's purchase, according to ESPN, "represents another big bet on the future of the NBA — and on the power of Brooklyn as a market."
The Nets, as a franchise, have been big losers on the court and the financial ledgers, but Tsai, 53, is enthusiastic about the team's direction under GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson, ESPN's sources said. His long-range goal is to connect the franchise with the business opportunities his strong ties in Asia present.
Educated at Yale, Tsai holds Canadian citizenship, but his business dealings carry him around the globe, primarily because of Alibaba, the China-based e-commerce behemoth he co-founded with Jack Ma that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via web portals.
Forbes estimates Tsai's net worth at $9.1 billion.