Joseph Chung-Hsin Tsai (Chinese: 蔡崇信; born January 1964) is a Taiwanese-Hong Kong-Canadian billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He is a co-founder and executive vice chairman of Chinese multinational technology company Alibaba Group. Born in Taiwan and educated in the U.S., he is a naturalized citizen of Canada. He owns the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and has interests in several other professional sports franchises.
January 1964 (age 57)
|Education||Yale University (BA, JD)|
|Occupation||Co-Founder and Executive Vice Chairman of Alibaba Group|
|Net worth||US$13.1 billion (December 2020)|
Early life, family, and educationEdit
Joseph Tsai was born in Taipei, Taiwan to Paul C. Tsai (Chinese: 蔡中曾, d. 4 May 2013), a second-generation lawyer, and Ruby Tsai. He has three younger siblings, Eva, Vivian, and Benjamin. The Tsai family escaped to Taiwan as part of the Kuomintang exodus after the Chinese Communist Party took over control of mainland China in 1949. At age 13, Tsai was sent to the U.S. to attend the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where he played both lacrosse and football (inside linebacker) and was a member of the Cleve House. Tsai enrolled at his father's alma mater, Yale University. He played for the Yale varsity lacrosse team for four years, and has been a consistent supporter of the team.
Tsai became a tax associate at the white-shoe law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell after graduation and was admitted as an attorney to the New York bar on 6 May 1991. After three years at the law firm, he switched to private equity and joined Rosecliff, Inc., a small management buyout firm based in New York, as vice president and general counsel. He left for Hong Kong in 1995 to join Investor AB, where he was responsible for its Asian private equity investments.
It was in this role that he first met Jack Ma in 1999 in Hangzhou after being introduced by a friend who was trying to sell his own company to Ma. Tsai was impressed with Ma's idea to create an international import and export marketplace, as well as his charismatic personality, but it was Ma's followers and their energy and enthusiasm that ultimately convinced Tsai. Later that year he quit the $700,000-a-year job at Investor AB and offered to join Ma as a member of the founding team for almost nothing. At the time each of Alibaba's 18 co-founders—of which Tsai was the only Western-educated member—accepted a salary of only $600 a year. He served as chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and founding board member. He single-handedly established Alibaba's financial and legal structure, since no other member of the team had any experience in venture capital or law. In May 2013, he became Alibaba's executive vice chairman. He has become the second-largest individual shareholder of Alibaba after Ma.
In September 2019, Tsai became the owner of the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA and chairman of Barclays Center. He initially invested in the NBA team in October 2017, purchasing a 49% stake in the Nets from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in a deal that valued the team at $2.3 billion, with the option to buy the remaining stake of the team no later than 2021. Tsai exercised that option in August 2019, and at the same time, bought the Nets' arena from Prokhorov for nearly $1 billion in a separate deal.
Tsai's ownership in the Nets includes the Long Island Nets of the NBA G League and the Nets Gaming Crew of the NBA 2K League. In January 2019, Tsai headed a group that bought the WNBA's New York Liberty from The Madison Square Garden Company. He owns the San Diego Seals, a professional box lacrosse team in the National Lacrosse League (NLL).
He is also chairman of J Tsai Sports. Through that company, he has investments in the upstart field lacrosse league, the Premier Lacrosse League and several sports media and technology companies based in North America and Asia. Tsai made his investment in the Premier Lacrosse League in February 2019, along with The Chernin Group and The Raine Group, helping fund the new lacrosse league founded by lacrosse player Paul Rabil and his brother Mike Rabil.
Tsai holds Canadian and Hong Kong passports. He is married to Clara Ming-Hua Wu, a granddaughter of Wu San-lien, the first elected mayor of Taipei City. Wu spent her childhood in Lawrence, Kansas and graduated from Lawrence High School. Wu also graduated from Stanford University, where she studied international relations, and has an MBA degree from Harvard Business School. She is an advisor for Taobao. Tsai and Wu have three children. They lived in Hong Kong for over a decade and now live in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, while he still spends much of his time in Hong Kong for business. Wu is a member of The Bishop's School board of trustees.
Tsai said “I am going into all of this, because a student of history will understand that the Chinese psyche has heavy baggage when it comes to any threat, foreign or domestic, to carve up Chinese territories. When the topic of any separatist movement comes up, Chinese people feel a strong sense of shame and anger because of this history of foreign occupation.”
In his open letter, Tsai referred to Hong Kong protesters as part of a "separatist movement." He wrote: "The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable.”
In March 2016, Tsai donated $30 million to his alma mater, Yale Law School, in honor of his father to support the continuing work of the Law School's China Center and renamed it Paul Tsai China Center.
In May 2017, Tsai and his wife, through the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation, made another donation to Yale for the construction, launch, and programs of the center and named it Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking.
One month later, in June 2017, the Tsais, again through the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation, made a donation to his high school, the Lawrenceville School, which was the single largest gift the school ever received. Tsai is a member of Lawrenceville's board of trustees.
In late March and early April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tsais donated 2.6 million masks, 170,000 goggles and 2000 ventilators to New York. On 20 April 2020, they donated $1.6 million of medical supplies to hospitals in San Diego.
In 2017, Tsai received the George H.W. Bush '48 Lifetime of Leadership Award from Yale University. The award honors alumni athletes who, in their lives after Yale, have made significant leadership contributions in their worlds of governance, commerce, science and technology, education, public service, and the arts and media.
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