Bucks owner Herb Kohl walks into a news conference after
reaching a deal to sell the franchise to New York investment
firm executives Marc Lasry, left, and Wesley Edens, right,
Wednesday, April 16, 2014, in Milwaukee.
Bucks owner Herb Kohl was well past retirement age and realized it
was time to secure the future of the franchise. He had one big
caveat for any potential investors: Keep the team in his hometown
And he found a
The former U.S.
senator is banking on New York investment firm executives Marc
Lasry and Wesley Edens to follow through after agreeing to sell
them the Bucks for about $550 million. The deal is subject to
approval by the NBA and its board of governors.
going to live forever. I've approached a time in my life where I
have to think about ... how do we think about succession,"
Kohl, 79, said Wednesday at a news conference in the atrium of the
BMO Harris Bradley Center. The deal was announced hours before the
team was to play its final game of a dismal season.
The first clue
that the Bucks were likely staying in town came before Kohl said a
word, when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Chris
Abele took seats on stage. Kohl had been championing the need for
a new arena for years.
As efforts to
secure investors ramped up in recent months, Kohl said he thought
it might be best to sell the team entirely instead of keeping a
stake to give the new owners say over new arena construction.
York investment firm executives Wesley Edens, left, and Marc
Lasry shoot baskets in the Bradley Center before a news
conference with Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl after
reaching a deal to sell the franchise Wednesday, April 16,
2014, in Milwaukee.
Lasry and Edens
committed to providing $100 million to help build a new arena.
Kohl also announced he would donate $100 million for a new
fans deserve a winning team," Edens said.
Kohl bought the
Bucks for $18 million in 1985. Kohl, a Milwaukee native whose
family owned a chain of department stores, was hailed as a
Now local and
state officials hope the sale will help shift the public discourse
for replacing the Bradley Center, the team's downtown home which
opened in 1988.
be shouting from the rooftops because this is a game-changer for
this entire debate," Barrett said.
Edens said he
hopes to get a plan for a new arena in a year, and have it built
in a couple years. He said he thought about $400 million could be
a benchmark for building the facility.
Kohl said the
subject of the sale would come up at an NBA meeting this week in
New York. In a statement, league commissioner Adam Silver praised
Kohl for the "historic and unprecedented" $100 million
gift to the city to secure the future of the franchise.
Bucks owner Herb Kohl, center, shakes hands with investment
firm executives Marc Lasry, right, and while Wesley Edens
watches at a news conference, after reaching a deal to sell
the franchise Wednesday, April 16, 2014, in Milwaukee. The
deal is subject to approval by the NBA and its Board of
investment banker Steve Greenberg, of Allen & Co., which is
regularly involved in sales of sports teams, to help look for
investors. There were nine bids which we all vetted through Kohl,
according to Greenberg.
Lasry and Edens
were committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee, Kohl said. Lasry
is chairman and chief executive officer of Avenue Capital Group,
while Edens is co-founder and a chairman of the board at Fortress
Investment Group. Both are based in New York.
Edens said his
mother was born and raised in Wisconsin, and that both he and
Lasry were big basketball fans.
The goal over the
next five to 10 years was to "bring a championship to this
city and try to build ... and become a part of the
community," Lasry said.
In Madison, Gov.
Scott Walker said he was pleased with the deal that will keep the
team in Wisconsin, and that he will work with the new ownership
team to see how he can help the team "flourish in the
it's a big deal," he told reporters when asked about the
The Bucks were an
NBA-worst 15-66 entering Wednesday night's game against the
Atlanta Hawks. Milwaukee has already set a franchise record for
The team was
beset by injuries from training camp in coach Larry Drew's first
season. Center Larry Sanders and guard O.J. Mayo are among the
veterans who have been sidelined for long spurts.
has emerged as a scoring point guard, while 18-year-old Giannis
Antetokounmpo had a promising first year after being drafted in
the first round last year.
The Bucks will
have another high pick in this year's talent-rich draft. And there
is more certainty now for the future since the team's prospective
new owners appear committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee.