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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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