Hedge fund billionaires Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry are buying the Milwaukee Bucks (NBA) from Herb Kohl, with the provision they keep the team in Wisconsin. The selling price is $550 million, with Kohl retaining a minority share of the team. (Not a bad return for a guy who bought the Bucks for $18 million in 1985.) The NBA’s Board of Governors Meetings are scheduled for April 17-18, and a sale should be approved then.
The sale also addresses one big issue both for the Bucks and the new owners: both agreed to contribute at least $100 million toward a replacement for the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee’s arena situation has been a sore spot for Kohl and the NBA, and the announcement gives some momentum toward a replacement plan.
“My priority has always been and will continue to be keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee,” said Kohl. “This announcement reinforces that Milwaukee is and will continue to be the home of the Bucks. Wes and Marc agree, and they share my commitment to the long-term success of this franchise in Milwaukee.”
Messrs. Edens and Lasry jointly stated: “We would like to thank Senator Kohl and his team for their support and cooperation throughout the purchase process. The Senator has provided the Bucks with nearly 30 years of dedicated stewardship, and we are very excited to join Bucks fans, the city of Milwaukee and the NBA to build the long-term success of this franchise. Having attended various sporting events in Milwaukee and Green Bay over the years, it is easy to see why the greater-Milwaukee area is such a storied sports atmosphere.
“We are lifelong basketball fans who are committed to the success of the Bucks and the identity of the team as a part of the city of Milwaukee. It is our vision for this franchise to be admired both locally and nationally for its success on the court, the quality of its organization and the loyalty of its fan base. Having each built competitive teams in the business world, we will apply that same intensity and determination as owners of the Milwaukee Bucks. We are as passionate and energized as Bucks fans are about bringing home an NBA championship to Milwaukee.”
“Today’s announcement signals the start of a new, exciting era for the Milwaukee Bucks,” said Kohl. “Now, with a long-term commitment from the new owners and major components of the funding in place for a new arena, we need to come together as a community to develop plans for a new sports and entertainment facility that will host more than 200 events a year, including Bucks games. I am confident we will do this.”
There were several parties reported to be interested in a Bucks purchase: Mark Attanasio, principal owner of the Milwaukee Brewers; Craig Leipold of Racine, who owns the Minnesota Wild (NHL); developer Jon Hammes, whose Hammes Company is headquartered in Milwaukee; and former Bucks Junior Bridgeman.
Still, the two hedge fund billionaires landed the team when the bidding was done. Both are out of New York City. Wesley Edens is co-founder of the Fortress Investment Group LLC, which has $61.8 billion in assets under management; Lasry is the chair and co-founder of Avenue Capital Group, which has $13.6 billion in assets under management.