David Levy, a Turner Media executive who was hired as the chief executive of the Brooklyn Nets less than two months ago, is leaving the franchise, the Nets announced Tuesday.
Levy is being replaced on an interim basis by Oliver Weisberg, an executive with owner Joe Tsai’s Hong Kong-based investment firm.
“I want to thank David for his collaboration over the past several months and wish him well in his future endeavors,” Weisberg said in a statement, which described the parting as mutual.
But Weisberg suggested there was a clash in vision between Tsai and Levy.
“As we enter an exciting next chapter of our organization, it’s important that ownership and management are completely aligned on our go forward plan,” the statement continued. “We are proud of the culture of the Brooklyn Nets under the leadership of general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson, and we look forward to continue bringing the best experience to our fans.”
In a brief phone interview, Levy agreed the parting was mutual.
“It wasn’t one thing,” he said. “It just wasn’t the job I signed up for. I wish I could say it was this or that, but it wasn’t what I signed up for.”
He declined to go into specifics about how the job was different from he expected but said it had nothing to do with the Nets’ and NBA’s recent travails in China. He suggested his next role would be closer to the media side of sports, where he spent decades, rather than the team side, where he spent months.
Tsai called Levy a “respected media executive and a friend” on Twitter and said he wished Levy “well in his next endeavors.”
In September, Tsai acquired sole ownership of the Nets for a record $2.35 billion. It seemed like an ideal time for Tsai, a Taiwan-born billionaire and a founder of the Chinese internet company Alibaba, to expand his ownership from 49%.
The Nets (4-5) brought on multiple blue-chip free agents over the summer — including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — and seemed prime to compete for a championship in the coming years, with a budding New York fan base. Tsai’s deep background in China, in conjunction with the league’s plans to continue expanding the game there, appeared to mesh well for Tsai.
One of Tsai’s first moves was hiring Levy, who had left as president of Turner last spring following AT&T’s acquisition of Turner. Under Levy, Turner bid aggressively to acquire sports media rights, including the NBA and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
In the release announcing his hire, the Nets said Levy would “oversee all business, revenue, strategy and operations for the franchise and arena,” although he was known to not be heavily involved in basketball decisions. That statement also said that Levy would serve as president of J Tsai Sports, Tsai’s investment firm.
Tsai has found his ownership to be unexpectedly rocky. In early October, Tsai received a torrent of criticism for siding against an NBA executive — Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets general manager — who had posted a supportive message of the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, just as the league was set to play two exhibition games in China.
As the firestorm threatened the NBA’s relationship with one of its largest international partners, Tsai posted an open letter referring to the protesters as a “separatist movement” and calling Morey’s Twitter post “damaging to the relationship with our fans in China.”
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