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Alibaba founder buys Barclays Center

After months of negotiations, Joseph Tsai, executive vice-chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has bought the 19,000-capacity Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The deal sees the Alibaba co-founder take control of the arena – home to basketball team the Brooklyn Nets – from Russian entrepreneur and politician Mikhail Prokhorov.

Tsai, who already owned 49% of the Nets, also purchased Prokhorov’s 51% controlling interest in the team. Prokhorov had held the stake through his company Onexim Sports and Entertainment.

Bloomberg reported that Tsai paid around US$3.5 billion in total for the arena, team and debt.

Granted the NBA [National Basketball Association] board of governors approves the sale of the team, Tsai will become chairman of the board of directors for the Barclays Center and NBA governor of the Nets.

“I will be the beneficiary of Mikhail’s vision, which puts the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful,” says Tsai. “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 Barclays Center, which opened in 2012, is operated by AEG Facilities in conjunction with BSE Global (previously Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment).

BSE Global also operates Webster Hall, in partnership with AEG Presents/ the Bowery Presents, and the 16,800-capacity NYCB Live (formerly Nassau Coliseum), which is owned by Onexim.

“We are committed to maintaining Barclays Center’s iconic status by bringing together culture, community, and entertainment for our fans”

Brett Yormark, BSE Global chief executive, is stepping down following the sale. Yormark is the only executive expected to leave the organisation.

“It has been a tremendous honour leading BSE Global, and working alongside some of the most brilliant professionals in the industry,” says Yormark. “I have always envisioned beginning my next chapter when Mikhail and Dmitry [Razumov, Onexim chief executive] sold the arena and the team, and with today’s announcement, that time has come.”

Yormark adds that he will oversee a “smooth transition” of the Barclays Center and the Nets to new ownership and will “continue to oversee Mikhail’s other Onexim assets”.

The potential buy-out by Tsai was first reported by the New York Post in March. At the time, the Post stated that Tsai’s purchase of the Barclays Center would be welcomed by the National Basketball Association, due to the potential for growth in China.

Upcoming shows at the Barclays Center include Kiss, Shawn Mendes, Mary J Blige & Nas, Chris Brown and Blink 182 & Lil Wayne, as well as hip-hop and Latin festival Soulfrito Music fest.

Alibaba has shown a growing interest in the music industry in recent years, launching artist management, booking and entertainment ticketing businesses.

Tsai co-founded the online marketplace in 1999 along with 17 others and continues to hold the second largest individual stake in the company, behind executive chair Jack Ma.

 


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Ex-Alibaba Music exec appointed Live Nation China chair

Live Nation China has appointed Song Ke, formerly head of Alibaba Group’s music streaming service, Alibaba Music, as chairman.

Based in Beijing, Song (pictured) will lead Live Nation’s overall business in China, with a focus on domestic artist touring, artist management and venues. Live Nation China managing director Edward Lui, based in Shanghai, will continue to oversee the company’s international concerts business.

Song Ke, a 20-year veteran of the Chinese music industry, most recently served as chairman of Alibaba Music, a division of world-leading ecommerce giant Alibaba Group (which is also active in event ticketing, booking and artist management). He founded Rye Music, one of China’s biggest record labels, in the late ’90s, and then, after a spell at Warner Music China, established Taiha Rye Music in 2004, where he worked with some of the biggest names in C-pop.

He is also the current chairman of the China Music Industry Committee (CMIC), which organises the annual CMIC Awards.

“Song Ke’s vast experience in the Chinese music industry will now help propel our business forward”

Alan Ridgeway, chairman of Live Nation Asia Pacific, comments: “We have made great inroads into China over the last few years by building up our international touring volumes, especially at the club and theatre level, and introducing both EDC and Creamfields festivals to multiple cities across China. Song Ke’s vast experience in the Chinese music industry will now help propel our business forward into the domestic artist touring business and other growth areas.”

“China is a rapidly growing live entertainment market, and Live Nation with its expertise and international knowhow is already contributing to the country’s live music ecosystem,” adds Song. “I look forward to helping Live Nation strengthen its core business and expand into new areas and opportunities.”

Recent Live Nation China shows include Troye Sivan, Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, OneRepublic, Tom Odell, Chris Botti and Kodaline, with upcoming dates including Kacey Musgraves, Jason Mraz and Lany.

 


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Fan takes over Damai as Alibaba integrates ent businesses

China’s Alibaba Group has appointed Fan Luyuan, the president of its Alibaba Pictures film division, as president of the Damai event ticketing platform, as it seeks to better integrate its various music and entertainment properties.

The reshuffle – which also sees Yang Weidong, president of video platform Youku, become president of music streaming service Ali Music – forms part of a “push for a unified entertainment strategy and stronger synergies” between the three platforms, says the company.

Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, turned over nearly US$40bn in the 2017–18 financial year. It acquired Damai, China’s largest seller of music, sports and theatre tickets, last March, and also has plans for an artist management company and booking agency, both largely tailored towards funnelling content to Youku (‘China’s YouTube’).

Alibaba kicks live plans into gear with Damai buy

Last September, Alibaba’s $7.2bn Digital Media & Entertainment Group announced the launch of a dedicated live entertainment division, to encompass ticketing, content creation and the live experience.

In a letter to employees, Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang says: “In the year and a half since Alibaba Digital Media & Entertainment Group was established, all of the business units have strengthened and made advancements in their respective fields. The digital media and entertainment matrix is on its way to fighting with stronger coordination.”

Zhang Yu, the former president of Alibaba Music and Damai, will move to a new, unspecified position within Alibaba Group.

Elsewhere in the ticketing space, Alibaba owns movie ticketing platform Tao Piao Piao, which has more than 290m users, or a roughly 44% marketshare. The company says it hopes to capitalise on the synergies between it and Damai to provide a one-stop shop for the consumption of entertainment.

 


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