Joseph Tsai, the Brooklyn Nets minority owner and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is set to buy the remaining 51 percent ownership stake in the franchise in a deal valued at a record $2.35 billion, according to a report on Wednesday.
Tsai, who acquired 49 percent of the franchise in 2017, is buying out the Nets’ current majority owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. After paying $1 billion to buy his initial stake, Tsai will put up $1.35 billion to purchase the remaining 51 percent, the New York Post reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
The $2.35 billion overall transaction price would rank as the richest deal in U.S. sports history. Casino magnate Tilman Fertitta paid a reported $2.2 billion to buy the NBA’s Houston Rockets in 2017, and hedge fund guru David Tepper paid $2.2 billion to buy the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in a deal that closed last year.
Nets representatives declined to comment.
Tsai’s deal to buy a minority stake in the Nets granted him the option to purchase controlling interest from Prokhorov by the 2021 season. ESPN reported at the time that the deal moved forward under the presumption that Tsai would eventually take over as the team’s sole owner.
Tsai is also in talks to acquire the Barclays Center, the Nets’ home arena, the Post reported.
Tsai has a personal net worth of $9.2 billion, according to Forbes. He currently serves as Alibaba’s executive vice chairman.
The Nets enter the 2019-20 NBA season with two new franchise cornerstones in the form of star point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Durant, each of whom signed max contracts this offseason. Durant is expected to miss the upcoming season due to an injury.