September 20, 2019
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Alibaba co-founder acquires full ownership of Brooklyn Nets, Barclays Center

 Joseph Tsai, Alibaba Group executive vice chairman, smiles during a press conference ahead of the 2016 Alibaba Group 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China, on Nov. 10, 2016 (reissued on Aug. 16, 2019). Tsai has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire full ownership of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center, the indoor arena in New York City that is home to that NBA franchise, the team said on Aug. 16 in a news release. EPA-EFE/STR

Joseph Tsai, Alibaba Group executive vice chairman, smiles during a press conference ahead of the 2016 Alibaba Group 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China, on Nov. 10, 2016 (reissued on Aug. 16, 2019). Tsai has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire full ownership of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center, the indoor arena in New York City that is home to that NBA franchise, the team said on Aug. 16 in a news release. EPA-EFE/STR

New York, Aug 16 (efe-epa).- The co-founder and executive vice chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has acquired full ownership of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center, the indoor arena in New York City that is home to that NBA franchise, the team said Friday in a news release.

Joseph Tsai, who had bought a 49 percent stake in the Nets in 2017, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Russian magnate Mikhail Prokhorov's controlling 51 percent interest, the statement said.

"It has been an honor and a joy to open Barclays Center, bring the Nets to Brooklyn and watch them grow strong roots in the community while cultivating global appeal," Prokhorov said of the franchise that was founded in 1967 and had been based in New Jersey until 2012.

"The team is in a better place today than ever before and I know that Joe will build on that success, while continuing to deliver the guest experience at Barclays Center that our fans, employees and colleagues in the industry enjoy," he was quoted as saying.

Once the team and arena transactions are finalized in late September, Tsai will become chairman of the board of the Barclays Center and NBA Governor of the Nets and its affiliates.

"I've had the opportunity to witness up close the Brooklyn Nets rebuild that Mikhail started a few years ago," the Alibaba co-founder said of his predecessor.

"I will be the beneficiary of Mikhail's vision, which put the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful," he added.

Bloomberg News had reported in 2017 that as part of Tsai's acquisition of a 49 percent stake in the Nets for $1 billion he also secured an option to purchase the remaining 51 percent stake for an additional $1.35 billion by 2021.

The $2.35 billion paid by Tsai for the Nets would mark a new record for a US professional sports franchise, eclipsing American hedge fund manager David Tepper's $2.2 billion acquisition of the Carolina Panthers, an NFL team, and American businessman Tilman Fertitta's $2.2 billion purchase of the NBA's Houston Rockets.

The sale of the Nets still must be approved by the NBA Board of Governors.

The change in ownership of the Nets comes amid sky-high expectations for the franchise, which signed free-agent superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving after the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season.

The 30-year-old Durant, who led the Golden State Warriors to NBA championships in 2017 and 2018, suffered an Achilles tendon injury in June in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

The Warriors went on to lose that series in six games to the Toronto Raptors.

Durant has a long road to recovery but has not ruled out returning to the court for the Nets next season. EFE-EPA

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