Mikhail Prokhorov

Joseph Tsai Buying 49 Percent Stake In Nets

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has reached an agreement to sell a 49% minority stake in the Nets to Alibaba executive vice chairman and co-founder Joseph Tsai, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN. League sources tell the ESPN duo that Tsai’s purchase will be based on a $2.3 billion valuation of the franchise.

As Wojnarowski and Lowe detail, the agreement between Prokhorov and Tsai will give the new investor the option to take over a majority interest in the franchise in the not-too-distant future. The plan is for Prokhorov to remain the principal and operating owner of the Nets for four more years, with the assumption that he’ll sell his stake once Tsai triggers his option.

As long as Tsai controls just 49% of the team, Prokhorov will continue to oversee the Nets’ basketball and business operations, sources tell the ESPN duo.

Reports of Prokhorov’s willingness to sell 49% of the Nets, with a path to controlling ownership for the new minority shareholder, have surfaced throughout the year. Tsai, whose Alibaba Group is a massive Chinese e-commerce company, had been cited as a possible buyer multiple times, despite the fact that a spokesperson repeatedly denied his interest.

The $2.3 billion valuation on Tsai’s purchase of the Nets is somewhat surprising. Although Brooklyn is certainly a favorable market, the club has won just 41 total games in the last two years, and currently lacks superstar talent. The agreement also doesn’t include ownership of the Barclays Center, the team’s arena. Nonetheless, the $2.3 billion valuation is a new record for an NBA franchise, surpassing the Rockets’ $2.2 billion sale price from earlier this year.

[RELATED: Tilman Fertitta Approved To Buy Rockets For $2.2 Billion]

Although the Nets haven’t enjoyed much on-court success in recent years, Tsai has “expressed enthusiasm over the direction of the franchise,” and has confidence in GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson, sources tell Wojnarowski and Lowe. Tsai intends to take advantage of his strong business ties in Asia to create “global business opportunities” for the Nets.

Nets Notes: Ownership, Crabbe, Outlook, Booker

Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis of The New York Post are back with another update on the potential Nets sale, reporting that prospective bidders for the franchise have been pushing owner Mikhail Prokhorov to sell a controlling interest in the team. Prokhorov is reportedly interested in selling a 49% stake with a path for a new minority owner to purchase a controlling interest within three years, but potential buyers are hoping to gain control of the club immediately.

“They’re asking, but I don’t think he’s giving in,” one source close to the discussions tells Kosman and Lewis. However, another source suggested that he wouldn’t be shocked if Prokhorov surrenders full control immediately.

While it remains to be seen what a sale will look like, a deal could be announced in the coming days or weeks, sources tell The Post. According to Kosman and Lewis, at least two “New York financial titans” are believed to be among the potential suitors, along with a Texas-based group that lost the bidding for the Rockets. Former Knicks and MSG president Dave Checketts is also rumored to be involved in a group of prospective buyers, sources tell The Post.

Here’s more on the Nets, as we wait to see how the sale process will play out:

Latest On Nets’ Ownership Situation

Reports on a potential sale of the Nets have surfaced throughout the offseason, with current owner Mikhail Prokhorov publicly conveying a desire to sell up to 49% of the franchise and denying reports suggesting that he’d be willing to give up control of the team.

This week, a pair of new reports have provided some updates on that process, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Prokhorov is getting closer to selling the Nets, and multiple suitors are in the running to purchase 49% of the franchise, sources tell Josh Kosman of The New York Post. The proposed sale wouldn’t include ownership of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, per Kosman.
  • Although a potential buyer would only receive a minority stake in the club at this point, the proposed agreement would give that investor the right to buy a larger stake and become controlling owner of the franchise within three years, Kosman reports.
  • In the wake of the Rockets selling for $2.2 billion, Prokhorov is seeking a sale price that values the Nets at over $2 billion as well. That means a 49% share of the franchise could be worth in the neighborhood of $1 billion.
  • Two sources told Jessica Toonkel and Olivia Oran of Reuters that Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai is in advanced talks to buy a stake in the Nets. However, Alibaba spokesperson Jennifer Kuperman called it a “false” report. “Joe Tsai has never talked to the seller and he is not purchasing any stake in the Brooklyn Nets,” Kuperman said in a statement.
  • Reuters’ initial report indicated that an agreement with Tsai could be finalized within the next few weeks, with a franchise valuation of about $2.2 billion. However, those sources cautioned that the deal could still fall apart.
  • Kosman, who has previously reported Tsai’s interest in the Nets – which Alibaba denied at that time too – was unable to confirm whether the Taiwanese billionaire is currently in talks with the team.

Prokhorov Looking To Sell Nets In Two-Part Process?

Over the course of the 2017 NBA offseason, there have been conflicting reports on whether Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov intends to sell just a minority share of his franchise, or if he’s seriously considering selling a controlling interest. In his latest report, Josh Kosman of The New York Post reiterates that Prokhorov plans to offload his controlling interest in the Nets, but may do so in a two-part process.

According to Kosman, Prokhorov will look to sell a minority stake in the team first, but will give that buyer a window to purchase the entire franchise — perhaps within three years or so. One source suggested to Kosman that “there will be a new (Nets) owner in the next few years.”

While the idea of selling 49% of the club may sound appealing to Prokhorov, who could retain control while receiving a huge boost to his bank account, there likely aren’t many investors out there interested in spending upwards of $1 billion on less than half of an NBA franchise and not receiving any real power. However, if there’s a clear path to becoming the controlling owner of the Nets, that scenario figures to be much more appealing to potential buyers.

Sources tell Kosman that the Nets believe they can demand a price of at least $2 billion after seeing the Rockets sell for $2.2 billion. Of course, that Rockets sale included operation of the Toyota Center Arena, and Prokhorov doesn’t plan to sell the separately owned Barclays Center, according to Kosman. So it remains to be seen how that will impact the sale price.

[RELATED: Tilman Fertitta Buying Rockets For Record Price]

As for who might be in the mix as a potential buyer, Kosman reports that Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai has expressed some interest, though reps for his family office, Blue Pool Capital, deny that interest. Other potential suitors – including some “Wall Street types” – have also been doing due diligence on the franchise, according to Kosman, who says that would-be buyers are waiting for clarification on various details before submitting formal offers.

Unlike the Rockets, who made a public statement earlier this summer announcing the franchise was up for sale, the Nets have not officially announced that Prokhorov is looking to sell controlling interest in the team. In fact, according to a NetsDaily report, a spokesman for Prokhorov downplayed the idea that the Russian owner is looking to offload the franchise, at least in the short term.

“We have received multiple offers with varying formats for buying a part or all of the Nets,” that spokesman said. “We are not considering any proposals that preclude our ongoing participation in the Nets for years to come. Mikhail continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of the team and remains committed to the Nets.”

Latest On The Potential Sale Of The Nets

The Nets’ franchise is drawing interest from potential buyers and owner Mikhail Prokhorov is hoping to garner a $2 billion offer for the organization, Josh Kosman of the New York Post reports. Prokhorov recently attempted to sell a minority stake in the franchise. However, that fell through, leading the Russian billionaire to parse offers for the entire franchise.

Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai reportedly has interest in buying the franchise and Kosman hears that he is trying to “box out others in the sales process.” It’s worth noting that a representative from his office, Blue Pool, has denied the rumored interest.

The Nets would like to find a Chinese backer, Kosman adds. Brooklyn’s executive VP of Global Partnership was in China last month setting up upwards of 20 meetings with potential buyers and partners.

Nets Notes: Culture, Marks, Tanking, Noel

In his latest piece for ESPN.com, Zach Lowe takes an in-depth look at the culture Sean Marks has created in Brooklyn since he was hired as the Nets’ general manager.

As Lowe details, the Nets were leaning toward hiring Bryan Colangelo as their GM over Marks back in February 2016, but team chairman Dmitry Razumov heard from several respected execs who praised Marks during that All-Star weekend, and had a long talk with Spurs GM R.C. Buford that helped convince the franchise Marks was the man for the job.

Since joining the Nets, Marks has attempted to turn the club into one players want to be a part of, creating a “serious but welcoming” atmosphere, as well as a sense of closeness and community within the organization. The club has also prioritized sports science treatment, keeping its players on minutes restrictions and having them fill out daily questionnaires about sleep, soreness, and diet. “I could play another five years doing what they do,” said Randy Foye, who spent 2016/17 with the Nets.

Lowe’s entire piece on the Nets is worth the read, particularly for more of those tidbits on the work that Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson have done to overhaul the team’s culture. Here are a few of the highlights from the story:

  • Razumov says team ownership is “ready to be patient” and would be fine with a 25-win season in 2017/18 if the Nets’ young players continue to develop and take positive steps forward.
  • The Nets will finally control their first-round pick again in 2019, and there has been talk within the franchise of tanking in 2018/19 in order to create an opportunity to draft a blue-chip prospect. Although Atkinson acknowledges that there’s  “faction” of people within the organization who believe that’s the way to go, it’s not the plan right now. “I don’t think it is in the cards to tank,” Marks said, per Lowe. “The goal is to compete and win games.”
  • The Nets hope their young core – which remains a work in progress – will help the team recruit veteran free agents, like the Sixers were able to do this summer. “We hope free agents say, ‘We want to play with those young bucks,'” Marks said.
  • The Sixers and Nets had brief trade discussions involving Nerlens Noel last season, but Brooklyn had no interest in giving up much for a player the team could pursue in free agency, sources tell Lowe. Noel currently remains a restricted free agent, though the Nets no longer have the cap room necessary to pursue him.
  • Despite recent rumors about Mikhail Prokhorov considering selling a controlling interest in the Nets, he continues to market only a minority stake in the team, according to Razumov.
  • According to Lowe, the NBA has talked about the possibility of banning the ability to swap picks in between drafts in which a team owes its picks to another team. That possibility hasn’t been discussed at length yet, but such a rule would have prevented the Nets from including a 2017 pick-swap in their deal with the Celtics when Boston was already receiving Brooklyn’s 2016 and 2018 first-rounders.

Mikhail Prokhorov May Consider Selling Nets

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has “warmed recently to the possibility” of selling controlling interest in the team, according to Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Prokhorov’s original plan was to sell a minority stake in the franchise — up to 49% — while remaining the majority owner. However, the tepid response to that offer, combined with the potential sale price of the Houston Rockets that may go as high as $2 billion, has Prokhorov rethinking his decision.

Sources tell the authors that Nets officials believe some of the prospective buyers of the Rockets may be interested in Brooklyn if a majority share becomes available.

The two teams are among the most popular NBA franchises in China, given Houston’s connection to Yao Ming and the Nets having Jeremy Lin in their backcourt. Mike Zavodsky, the Nets’ executive VP of global partnerships, is touring China this week and has 20 meetings arranged with potential buyers.

“Our brand in China is growing, in merchandise sales and commercially,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets and Barclays Center.

The team lost roughly $150MM three years ago, but its finances have improved dramatically since then, with much of the windfall coming through a deal with the YES Network that pays the Nets $50MM a year. Reducing salary has also played a role as the team may turn a profit for the first time since coming to Brooklyn in 2012.

The NBA Finance Committee recently approved Prokhorov’s plan to split corporate ownership of the team and Barclays Center.

Atlantic Notes: Thomas, Celtics, Knicks, Carroll

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas won’t need surgery to fix the right hip injury that forced him out of the playoffs, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Several hip specialists evaluated Thomas, but no course of action could be determined until the swelling lessened. The injury first struck Thomas in mid-March, then was aggravated in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Wizards. “Isaiah is making good progress,” said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “He’s out on the court, he’s shooting. He’s full speed ahead on the stationary bike and working in the swimming pool. He’s progressing nicely.” As long as there are no setbacks, Thomas is expected to be ready for training camp.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • For the second straight season, the Celtics appear headed to camp with more than 15 guaranteed contracts, Himmelsbach writes in a separate story. Shane Larkin reached an agreement with Boston last week on a fully guaranteed deal, which brings the total to 16. The roster will have to be trimmed to 15 by the start of the season, not counting a pair of two-way contracts, so the Celtics will either have to make a trade or waive a player with guaranteed money. In the same situation last fall, Boston waived R.J. Hunter and his $1.2MM deal.
  • The Knicks are still hoping to find a veteran point guard to team with Ron Baker and rookie Frank Ntilikina, relays ESPN’s Ian Begley. The team believes its best chance to get one is in a potential Carmelo Anthony trade.
  • The Nets didn’t require DeMarre Carroll to undergo a physical before completing their trade with the Raptors because they received so much compensation, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Brooklyn picked up Carroll, Toronto’s 2018 first-rounder and an additional 2018 second-rounder, while the Raptors got Justin Hamilton, who has since been waived, and an $11.8MM trade exception. Carroll played 72 games last season after having knee surgery in his first year in Toronto and being limited to 26 games.
  • Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov intends to sell up to 49% of the team while keeping ownership of the Barclays Center, writes Mike Ozanian of Forbes. The NBA’s advisory finance committee has approved Prokhorov’s lease terms, but a final OK must come from the league once a seller is found.

Mikhail Prokhorov Looking To Sell 49% Stake In Nets

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is looking to sell 49% of his ownership stake in the franchise, he told Russian media this week, according to an Associated Press report. Per Prokhorov, “the process is going on and we are looking for a buyer.”

Prokhorov said back in the fall that he wanted to retain majority ownership of the Nets, but that he was interested in bringing in an investor to take on a minority share of the team — preferably, that owner would be a local one to strengthen the club’s presence in New York. As NetsDaily outlines, Prokhorov reiterated this week that he’s committed to the Nets and “will remain the majority owner of the team.”

League sources tell NetsDaily that in recent months a handful of potential buyers have approached either the NBA, Prokhorov’s investment bankers, or Allen & Co., the firm Prokhorov hired to identify possible investors. However, the NetsDaily report suggests that the asking price is high, and there’s some uncertainty about whether a minority investor would be given an option to eventually purchase a controlling interest in the team. There also may be a divide between the Nets and the NBA over whether a stake in the Barclays Center should be involved in any sale.

In February, Forbes valued the Nets franchise at $1.8 billion, which would mean that a 49% share in the team would approach $900MM. Teams that have been sold in the past have often fetched a higher return than Forbes’ valuations, so Prokhorov could be seeking an even higher price from a prospective buyer.

Eastern Notes: Playoffs, Tavares, Pavlova, Jackson

The Eastern Conference playoff matchups are set. The Celtics take home the No. 1 seed and will play the Bulls (8) in the opening round. The Cavaliers (2) will take on the Pacers (7). The Raptors (3) will clash with the Bucks (6) and the Wizards (4) will battle the Hawks (5).

The Heat were hoping to sneak in, but with both Indiana and Chicago winning tonight, they will watch the playoffs from home. Coach Erik Spoelstra, who’s in the conversation for the Coach of the Year award, is upset to see Miami’s season end, as Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald passes along via Twitter. “I don’t know if I ever felt this way about a team before. I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted anything more for a team,” Spoelstra said.

On the bright side, Miami has a shot at the No. 1 overall pick, owning 0.5% of the ping pong balls in this year’s lottery. You can find each lottery team’s chances at the No.1 overall pick on our Reverse Standings page.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Cavaliers swapped Edy Tavares for Larry Sanders because they felt Tavares was “more game ready,” Sam Amico of Amico Hoops relays (Twitter feed). It was reported yesterday that Cleveland and Sanders mutually parted because he would not have made the rotation. Tavares had 10 rebounds and six blocks in his debut with the team tonight.
  • Irina Pavlova, who serves as a top adviser to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, is leaving the organization, Chris Mannix of The Vertical writes. Pavlova is on the board of directors for Brooklyn and Brooklyn Arena LLC, which is the company that runs the Barclays Center.
  • Coach/executive Stan Van Gundy sees Reggie Jackson‘s injury as a major reason why the Pistons never met expectations, Rod Beard of The Detroit News passes along.  Jackson didn’t play well upon returning, but Van Gundy believes he will bounce back next year. “I think Reggie will come back and be as good as or better than he was two years ago. I honestly do. There were a lot of things that were physically and mentally very difficult for him to handle,” SVG said. “He’s committed to getting those things changed. He’s a talented guy and he’ll be really good next year — I have confidence in him.”
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