Minority owner Joseph Tsai has agreed to buy the remaining 51% of the Brooklyn Nets in a record setting deal. Tsai, who is the co-founder of Alibaba, will reportedly pay Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov $2.35 billion in order to assume full control of the team, sources tell Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
Tsai bought a 49% share in the team early in the 2018 calendar year for $1 billion. At the time, the agreement between the two parties was that Tsai would have the right to buy the remaining 51% before the 2021-22 NBA season for an additional $1.35 billion. The Rockets (Tilman Fertitta) and the NFL’s Carolina Panthers (David Tepper) were each bought for $2.2 million, which was previously the record for a transaction involving a sports franchise.
There’s a ton of excitement in Brooklyn, as the franchise recently signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, though Durant’s debut will be delayed as he is recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles.
According to Kosman, siging stars was part of the Prokhorov’s two-part sale to Tsai. The Russian billionaire had promised Tsai that the team would develop a young core and sign free agents. Inking Durant to a four-year deal, despite the risk of his injury, helped seal the deal.
Prokhorov bought an 80% share in the franchise along with a 45% share in the not-yet-built Barclays Center for approximately $200 million back in 2010 on the heals of 12-70 season by New Jersey Nets. He also assumed $180 million in debt that previous owner Bruce Ratner accumulated. Prokhorov also had to put up over $100 million in bonds needed to finance the new arena in order to complete the transaction.
Fast-forward nine seasons and the team has a new look, a booming arena, and tremendous hope for the future with Durant and Irving. The stars signing is estimated to be worth somewhere between $29 million and $43.5 million for the upcoming season through increased ticket sales, corporate sponsorship, and merchandising deals, a source told Kosman.
“Prices will go up and they will sell out,” University of Michigan Sports Management professor Mark Rosentraub said of Durant’s comeback. “No one in the NBA drives attendance like Kevin Durant.”