New York (AFP) - Joseph Tsai, co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has made a deal to purchase full control of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets from Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, the club announced Friday.
The Nets said Prokhorov has made an agreement with the Taiwanese-Canadian businessman to sell the Barclays Center arena and his 51 percent controling interest in the Nets.
Tsai bought 49 percent of the Nets last year for $1 billion, with the chance to purchase more shares before the start of the 2021-22 campaign.
The deal, according to multiple reports, will cost Tsai $2.35 billion, the highest price ever paid for a US sports team.
Tilman Fertitta paid a record $2.2 billion for the NBA's Houston Rockets in 2017, the same price hedge fund owner David Tepper paid last year to buy the NFL's Carolina Panthers.
Tsai has an estimated net worth of $9.4 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
Prokhorov bought the Nets in 2010 and guided their move from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
"I've had the opportunity to witness up close the Brooklyn Nets rebuild that Mikhail started a few years ago," Tsai said.
"He hired a front office and coaching staff focused on player development, he supported the organization with all his resources and he refused to tank.
"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.
"We are committed to maintaining Barclays Center's iconic status by bringing together culture, community, and entertainment for our fans and everyone in New York."
The Nets deal, expected to close by the end of September and thus ahead of the mid-October start of the 2019-20 NBA campaign, will make Tsai the arena board of directors chairman and the team owner, provided the NBA board of governors gives its approval as expected.
The current management will run the team and venue, with Nets chief executive Brett Yormark overseeing the ownership transition before departing.
"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.
"The team is in a better place today than ever before and I know that Joe will build on that success."
The Nets made two huge free agency signings in the early minutes of the transfer period, landing two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant and star guard Kyrie Irving.
While Durant is likely to miss all of the 2019-20 campaign with a torn Achilles tendon, the Nets are likely to improve on last season's 42-40 mark and could become a serious Eastern Conference contender upon his return to form.