Joseph TsaiThe NBA and Joseph Tsai have been flirting for a while. The co-founder of powerhouse Chinese shopping website Alibaba has had interest in buying all or part of an NBA team, and the NBA loves the idea of expanding its reach into China.

The flirting stage has now ended as Tsai has agreed to buy 49-percent of the Brooklyn Nets with the ultimate goal of buying the entire team at some point.

Joseph Tsai, the executive vice chairman and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce goliath Alibaba, has reached an agreement in principle to purchase a 49 percent minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets that includes the option to acquire controlling interest of the NBA franchise in several years, league sources told ESPN.

The purchase price will be based upon a $2.3 billion valuation of the team, league sources said.

Mikhail Prokhorov will remain principal and operating owner of the Nets for an additional four years, with a presumption that he will sell his majority stake upon the triggering of Tsai’s option, league sources said.

One thing to mention—that $2.3 billion valuation of the team is insane—that is more than the Rockets just sold for ($2.2 billion), and that factored in the building, Tsai is buying just the team, not the Barclay’s Centre. Prokhorov retains control of the building (there were some around the league who always thought this was more a real estate move for the Russian billionaire than it was about owning an NBA team, he also is involved in development around the Barclay’s Centre).

What Tsai will not have is a say over basketball operations. Well, not a final say, he will have his voice heard. The Nets are just starting a long rebuild process under GM Sean Marks, one where he had few assets to begin with thanks to decisions of the previous regime. It’s going to be a long process that will require patience, but Tsai is reportedly on board with that.

 

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