Person

Joseph Tsai

Nationality:

Canadian

Residence:

Hong Kong

Occupation:

Co-founder of Chinese E-Commerce Company Alibaba

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Joseph “Joe” Tsai is a co-founder and executive chairman of the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group. 1 He runs the left-of-center Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation with his wife 2 3 and is the governor of the Brooklyn Nets National Basketball Association team. 4

In 2019, Tsai faced controversy for calling pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong a “separatist movement” and citing Chinese Communist Party revisionist history regarding Hong Kong in a Facebook post. 5 He has publicly defended controversial decisions made by Chinese President Xi Jinping. 6

Career

Joseph Tsai is a co-founder and executive vice chairman 7 of the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group. He is the second-largest shareholder of the organization after co-founder Jack Ma. Tsai has been the chairman of Alibaba since 2023. 8

Joseph Tsai also is the governor (the NBA’s term for a team owner) of the Brooklyn Nets National Basketball Association Team. He took a minority stake of the team in 2018 and then bought all remaining shares of the organization in 2019. He is an investor or owner of several other professional sports teams in the United States. 9

Prior to co-founding Alibaba, Tsai practiced law as an associate for Sullivan and Cromwell LLP in Hong Kong, where he focused on Asian private equity investments for Investor AB of Sweden’s Wallenberg family. 10

Controversy

Despite previously criticizing Chinese state-owned banks and regulators for being backward and having a “pawnshop mentality,” Joseph Tsai has publicly defended the Chinese Communist Party and controversial decisions made by Chinese President Xi Jinping. 11

He has said that stifling freedoms in China was necessary for economic growth and stability, asserted that most of China’s 1.4 billion citizens are “happy where they are,” and defended Chinese national security authorities imprisoning activists in Hong Kong. 12

In 2019, Tsai called pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong a “separatist movement” and cited Chinese revisionist history regarding Hong Kong 13 in response to a Tweet from the then-general manager of the Houston Rockets NBA team. This tweet from the Rockets general manager called for people to “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” amid protests challenging new policies from mainland China. 14 In 2024, Tsai said that relations between the NBA and China are in a “good place” and that tensions over Hong Kong are “water under the bridge.” 15

Political Activism

Joseph Tsai is a founding board member of left-of-center The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), which promotes Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States, and is a founder of the Tsai Leadership Program at Yale University Law School. 16

Tsai and his American-born wife, Clara, run the left-of-center Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation. 17 In 2020, the foundation launched the Social Justice Fund, which carries out most of the foundation’s left-of-center philanthropic work. In 2020, the fund committed $50 billion for a ten-year plan to address alleged racial justice issues in Brooklyn, New York. 18 19

Personal Information

Joseph Tsai was born in Taiwan in 1964. He is a graduate of Yale University and Yale University Law School. 20

Tsai is a Canadian and Hong Kong citizen whose primary residence is in Hong Kong. He maintains several residences around the world, including in New York City. 21 22

References

  1. Kussin, Zachary. “Billionaire Joe Tsai outed as buyer of $190 M penthouse.” New York Post. January 20, 2022. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://nypost.com/2022/01/20/joe-tsais-family-office-outed-as-buyer-of-190m-nyc-home/.
  2. “About.” Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://www.bksjf.org/about.
  3.   “About.” Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://www.bksjf.org/about.
  4. “Joseph Tsai.” Forbes. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://www.forbes.com/profile/joseph-tsai/?sh=2cea19087b32.
  5. “Open letter to all NBA fans:.” Facebook Post. Joe Tsai Facebook. October 6, 2019. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://www.facebook.com/100001583307192/posts/2653378931391524?sfns=mo.
  6. Kennedy, Dana. “Why Alibaba’s Joe Tsai gets to party but Jack Ma is punished by China.” New York Post. August 14, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://nypost.com/2021/08/14/alibabas-joe-tsai-gets-to-party-but-china-punishes-jack-ma/.
  7. Kussin, Zachary. “Billionaire Joe Tsai outed as buyer of $190 M penthouse.” New York Post. January 20, 2022. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://nypost.com/2022/01/20/joe-tsais-family-office-outed-as-buyer-of-190m-nyc-home/.
  8. “Joseph Tsai.” Forbes. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://www.forbes.com/profile/joseph-tsai/?sh=2cea19087b32.
  9. “Joseph Tsai.” Forbes. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://www.forbes.com/profile/joseph-tsai/?sh=2cea19087b32.
  10. “The Evolution of a Leader.” Yale Law School. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://law.yale.edu/studying-law-yale/alumni-student-profiles/joseph-c-tsai-90.
  11. Kennedy, Dana. “Why Alibaba’s Joe Tsai gets to party but Jack Ma is punished by China.” New York Post. August 14, 2021. Accesed June 3, 2024. https://nypost.com/2021/08/14/alibabas-joe-tsai-gets-to-party-but-china-punishes-jack-ma/.
  12. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru. “Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai is the face of NBA’s uneasy China relationship.” June 3, 2024. https://www.espn.com.au/nba/story/_/id/33723055/brooklyn-nets-owner-joe-tsai-face-nba-uneasy-china-relationship
  13. “Open letter to all NBA fans:.” Facebook Post. Joe Tsai Facebook. October 6, 2019. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://www.facebook.com/100001583307192/posts/2653378931391524?sfns=mo.
  14. Sopan Deb and Li Yuan. “Nets Owner Joe Tsai Didn’t Seem Political. Until Now.” New York Times. October 7, 2019. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/07/sports/joe-tsai-nba-china.html.
  15. Ye, Josh. “Tensions between China and NBA are ‘water under the bridge’ – Nets owner.” Reuters. February 23, 2024. Accessed June 3, 2204. https://www.reuters.com/sports/basketball/tensions-between-china-nba-are-water-under-bridge-nets-owner-2024-02-23/.
  16. “The Evolution of a Leader.” Yale Law School. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://law.yale.edu/studying-law-yale/alumni-student-profiles/joseph-c-tsai-90.
  17. Kennedy, Dana. “Why Alibaba’s Joe Tsai gets to party but Jack Ma is punished by China.” New York Post. August 14, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://nypost.com/2021/08/14/alibabas-joe-tsai-gets-to-party-but-china-punishes-jack-ma/.
  18. “About.” Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://www.bksjf.org/about.
  19. “About.” Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://www.bksjf.org/about.
  20. “Joe Tsai.” NBA. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://www.nba.com/nets/front-office/joe-tsai.
  21. Kussin, Zachary. “Billionaire Joe Tsai outed as buyer of $190M Penthouse.” New York Post. January 20, 2022. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://nypost.com/2022/01/20/joe-tsais-family-office-outed-as-buyer-of-190m-nyc-home/.
  22. “Joseph Tsai.” Forbes. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://www.forbes.com/profile/joseph-tsai/?sh=2cea19087b32.
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