MOSCOW, April 16. /TASS, Andrey Kartashov/. Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov’s move to sell a 49% stake in his NBA (National Basketball Association) Brooklyn Nets club became one of the major deals in the history of the US-based association, David Watts, vice-president of the NBA in Russia, told TASS on Monday.
Brooklyn Nets’ press service announced in a statement on April 12 that Prokhorov had sold a 49% interest in his NBA Brooklyn Nets basketball club to billionaire Joe Tsai, an executive vice president and co-founder of China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba Group.
"Looking back in the past, we may say that it was a good investment, considering the fact that Prokhorov purchased Brooklyn Nets for some $220 million," Watts said in an interview with TASS.
The sale of the 49% stake was unanimously approved by the NBA Board of Governors last Thursday, while the sum of the deal was not disclosed. Various media reports estimated NBA Brooklyn Nets at $2.3 billion, which suggests that Prokhorov gained $1.1 billion from the deal.
"The deal to sell a 49% stake today is outstanding in business terms and is one of the major in the league (NBA)," Watts said. "This deal demonstrates the overall power of the NBA."
Watts also said that the interest of business community in the NBA would keep growing in the future.
"People are valuing our brand and our league," he said. "Investors see the possible payback as no one would be wasting millions of dollars for nothing. Believe me, businessmen are far from being fools."
Prokhorov’s deal with Joe Tsai, he said, turned out to be one of the major ones for the Russian business in the West recently.
Watts said that the National Basketball Association never paid attention to the nationality of the clubs’ owners in the US-based association.
"One of Cleveland (Cavaliers) shareholders is from China, Sacramento Kings’ owner comes from India, while a Russian businessman owns Brooklyn Nets," Watts said. "NBA is a global league, which never pays attention to nationalities."
Prokhorov remains the controlling owner of Brooklyn Nets at least until 2021, as according to the deal, Joe Tsai has a purchase option for further shares that year. The deal did not cover the club’s home arena, Barclays Center, which is owned by Prokhorov.
Russian billionaire and former presidential candidate Prokhorov, 52, bought the then New Jersey Nets in 2010 and 45% of the shares in Barclays Center for $223 million and later relocated the club to Brooklyn, which has a large Russian-speaking population.
He owned 80% of the Brooklyn Nets and 45% of Barclays Center until December 2015, when he gained full control of the team and the sports arena. According to Bloomberg reports at that time, the Russian tycoon paid an additional $875 million in December 2015 for the club and $825 million for Barclays Center.