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‘Passing the torch of an amazing project': Prokhorov on selling the Brooklyn Nets to Tsai

Russian magnate Mikhail Prokhorov added that he would continue rooting for the club and will be attending the games hoping that the Brooklyn Nets would eventually win the NBA Championship

ST. PETERSBURG, September 20. /TASS, Andrey Kartashov/. Russian magnate Mikhail Prokhorov told TASS that he believed it would have been unwise to refuse an offer ‘too good to pass up’ from Canadian billionaire Joseph Tsai to purchase the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets basketball club.

Prokhorov closed the deal on Wednesday to sell his Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center to Joseph Tsai for a record-setting price tag of $2.35 billion, a sum currently unparalleled in the history of sports. For instance, US billionaire David Tepper earlier purchased the NFL’s Carolina Panthers team for $2.2 billion, while another American tycoon, Tilman Fertitta, acquired the NBA’s Houston Rockets in 2017 also for $2.2 billion, which was a record sum in the history of the NBA up until now.

"It’s been an amazing project from a business point of view," Prokhorov said in an interview with TASS. "I don’t know of another investment that has shown this kind of return in a relatively short period, so it was simply too good to pass up."

"Having the chance to be a part of the NBA and see everything up close has been tremendously beneficial not only because they have a business model that makes sport profitable, but because they have taken every aspect of the sport to the highest level," Prokhorov continued.

"This includes everything from scouting to physical training to medical treatment," the 54-year-old businessman said. "I’m taking with me a treasure trove of knowledge which is already being passed on to my friends and colleagues in basketball here at home."

Joseph Tsai, 55, is the executive vice chairman and co-founder of China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba Group. The Internet holding manages such marketplaces as Aliexpress, Tmall.com, Taobao.com and Forbes business magazine has put Tsai’s fortune at $9.9 billion.

Prokhorov hopes Brooklyn Nets will be crowned NBA champs

The Brooklyn Nets announced this summer that it acquired NBA’s ten-time All-Star light forward Kevin Durant, who holds two NBA Champion rings, and six-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who also possesses an NBA Champion ring after winning it with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. The club also signed up three-time All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan, who currently holds NBA’s record of the best career field goal percentage (67.4%).

Mikhail Prokhorov said he believed that the Brooklyn Nets is now one of the strongest in the prestigious US-based basketball association.

"The Brooklyn Nets are now in the best shape they have ever been in during my tenure, and for most of the years before that," Prokhorov told TASS. "So I’m passing the torch to new ownership with a clear conscience."

The Russian billionaire added that he would continue rooting for the club and will be attending the games hoping that the Brooklyn Nets would eventually win the NBA Championship.

"Even though I’ve sold the team, I will remain its Number 1 fan and will continue to attend games from time to time. I hope to be at their championship win sometime in the near future, and I fully believe that will happen," he added.

Last season, Brooklyn Nets finished sixth in the NBA’s Eastern Conference qualifying for the playoffs, where it lost to Philadelphia 1-4 in the first-round series.

Prokhorov scooped up 80% of the then New Jersey Nets in 2009 for $223 million. He also repaid $160 million of the club’s debts back then and became the first foreign owner of a basketball team in the American NBA. After the deal was closed, the team moved to a new arena in Brooklyn, changing their uniforms’ colors and name to the Brooklyn Nets.

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.