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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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Alibaba founder in talks to buy New York arena

Joseph Tsai, co-founder and executive vice-chairman of ecommerce giant Alibaba Group, is reportedly in talks to acquire New York City arena Barclays Center.

The 19,000-capacity Barclays Center – home to basketball team Brooklyn Nets, of which Tsai already owns 49% – was 2018’s eighth busiest by ticket sales, according to Pollstar, selling nearly 817,000 tickets. It opened in 2012, and is currently owned by Brooklyn Events Center and operated by AEG Facilities and BSE Global (formerly Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment).

Both Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets have denied rumours of a takeover by Tsai, which was first reported by the New York Post. According to the Post, “a sale to Tsai would be embraced by the NBA [National Basketball Association], which is anxious for him to take control of the Nets so he can help the league grow in China.”

The arena hosted music stars including the Killers, Bruno Mars, Phil Collins and Muse in 2018, with shows by Twenty One Pilots, Ariana Grande and Iron Maiden planned for this summer.

Taiwanese-born Tsai co-founded Alibaba, which turned over nearly US$40 billion in 2018, with Jack Ma in 1999. The Hangzhou-based company dwarfs Amazon and eBay in online sales globally, and has in recent years staked a claim in the music industry, expanding into artist management, booking and entertainment ticketing.

 


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