NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets minority owner Joseph Tsai is close to adding another New York team to his sports portfolio.
An investment group led by the co-founder of the Alibaba Group is close to a deal to buy the Liberty, a person familiar with the purchase told The Associated Press on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time). The person, who said the deal could be done within a week, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. The WNBA's regular season begins in May.
Tsai bought a 49-percent interest in the Nets in April. Liberty owner James Dolan put the team up for sale in November 2017. There had been several potential buyers and a few had gotten close to purchasing the team over the past 14 months, but all the deals fell through for various reasons.
The team said before last season that it had "lost money every year since its inception and cumulative losses exceed $100 million." The franchise played most of its home games in 2018 at the Westchester County Center, which saved the team a lot of money. Operating costs were nearly 20 times less than playing a game at Madison Square Garden.
The WNBA already has released its schedule for 2019, and the Liberty are set to play in suburban Westchester again, with the two school and camp-day games listed without a venue. With dates locked in, it could be difficult to move games to Brooklyn's Barclays Center if that's what the new ownership group wanted.
The team dropped from fourth in attendance in 2017 to last in the league last season, averaging 2,823 fans. That number was even smaller when the two kids' day games at MSG were taken out, with just 1,886 fans coming to the 15 Westchester dates. The Liberty couldn't routinely fill the arena, which was configured to hold only 2,319 fans.
Improved play on the court could help draw more fans. The Liberty struggled last season, finishing with the second-worst record in the league. They have the No. 2 pick in the WNBA draft in April.