Billionaire Joe Tsai is the ‘mystery buyer’ behind $157 million Manhattan apartment deal

a close up of a man wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Joe Tsai, co-founder and executive vice chairman, Alibaba Group.Joe Tsai, co-founder and executive vice chairman, Alibaba Group.

Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai is the mystery buyer behind a $157 million apartment deal in Manhattan’s most prestigious condo tower, according to people familiar with the deal. Tsai, who also owns the Brooklyn Nets NBA team, purchased two full-floor condo apartments at 220 Central Park South in two transactions totaling $157.5 million, say people close to the transaction.

The purchase marks what’s believed to be the third most expensive home ever sold in the U.S. The priciest home ever sold in America is in the same building, Ken Griffin’s purchase of four floors (51 through 53) for $238 million in 2019.

Tsai’s purchase spans two floors (the 60th and one above) and has sweeping views of Central Park and mid-town Manhattan. The deal also includes a studio apartment on the 18th floor, likely for staff.

Thanks in part to Griffin’s purchase, as well as blue-chip buyers like Sting and Daniel Och, 220 Central Park South has continued to soar in value even through the pandemic, and it’s more than 90% sold out. The units purchased by Tsai both sold for more than than their original sale price. The 61st floor sold for $51.4 million last year, while the 60th floor sold for $50.9 million.

A spokesperson for Tsai didn’t immediately comment. The purchase comes at a sensitive time for Tsai and Alibaba. Alibaba shares have fallen by a third since October, and Chinese authorities are cracking down on the country’s big tech companies to curb their power and data reach.

Tsai’s fellow Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has largely retreated from public life after he criticized Chinese regulators and Beijing scuttled the initial public offering of his fintech giant Ant.

Tsai remains executive vice chairman and the second-largest shareholder of Alibaba. Tsai, who is worth about $10 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index.

Tsai was born in Taiwan, attended school in New Jersey and lived and worked in New York in the mid-1990s working as a lawyer and private-equity executive. After making his fortune in China at Alibaba, he splits his time between San Diego and Hong Kong. He holds both Canadian and Hong Kong passports.

Tsai purchased a minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets in 2017 and purchased the remainder of the team in 2019 along with operating rights to Barclay’s Center for a total of more than $3 billion. Tsai also sits on the board of NBA China and owns the WNBA’s New York Liberty.

Tsai often attends Nets games and told the New York Post he planned to become more visible in New York after buying the team. “New York is an incredible city. I have an affinity for New York,” he told The Post in 2019. “My first job after law school was in New York. I met my wife here. So New York to me is my second home.” Now, he will have an even bigger home for his second home.

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