Brooklyn Nets Parent Names Sam Zussman as Next CEO

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The parent of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center has named Endeavor executive Sam Zussman as its next chief executive officer.

Zussman will oversee all of BSE Global’s assets, including the NBA team, the G League’s Long Island Nets, an esports franchise, and operation of the 10-year-old arena. He’ll also be tasked with helping BSE and owner Joe Tsai continue to push the company into new opportunities.

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“I come into this with a growth mindset,” Tsai said in a phone interview from Brooklyn. “There’s a lot of potential to generate more revenue with new technology and new sources of sponsorship. So when we set out to find a new CEO for the business, I thought the most important criteria was someone who is strategically aligned with our thinking, and has the executive management experience to execute that vision.”

Zussman will transition into the role over the summer, BSE said in a statement, and will be in the job full-time prior to the start of the next NBA season. He’ll also become an alternate governor of the Nets, a designation that allows him to represent the team at league meetings.

Zussman spent the last 16 years at Endeavor (NYSE: EDR) and IMG. He’s currently based in London, where he leads the company’s event portfolio, including tennis, golf, motorsports, festivals and other entertainment properties. Zussman also oversees the group’s global media rights acquisition and distribution, its global media production, and IMG Arena, its betting business.

NBA teams, and sports properties more broadly, are skyrocketing in value. The average NBA franchise is now worth $2.58 billion, according to Sportico’s calculations. That’s up fivefold in the last 10 years. Brooklyn ranks No. 4 in the NBA, at $3.61 billion.

The Nets, however, are in a unique spot financially. The team recently set franchise records for attendance, ticket revenue and sponsorship, but still lost $100 million due to player salaries and luxury tax costs. Tsai said the group has opportunities to grow revenue in ticket pricing and new sponsors (particularly in new tech and e-commerce sectors), plus select owned-and-operated events.

The Nets were projected to generate about $343 million in revenue this season, according to Sportico numbers, sixth highest in the NBA. Speaking broadly, Tsai said an NBA team and an arena in a city like New York should consider $250 million-$300 million as a “baseline.”

“If I think about this as a growing business, we will want to get to $500 million over the next two or three years,” Tsai said. “And if we build a foundation for a $500 million business, we can feel confident that we can get to $1 billion in revenue over a seven-year period.”

Zussman is replacing John Abbamondi, who unexpectedly announced in February that he would step down after the Nets season. In 2020 Abbamondi replaced Oliver Weisberg, head of Tsai’s investment fund Blue Pool Capital, who held the job in an interim role following David Levy’s abrupt departure in 2019 after two months on the job.

The Nets have made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, and drew a lot of attention last season when they united superstars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. The trio rarely saw the court together due to injury, and Harden is now in Philadelphia, but the team is the betting favorite to win the Eastern Conference in 2023.

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