Economy & Business
9:20 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Kohl Announces New Bucks Owners

Herb Kohl announces tentative deal to sell the Milwaukee Bucks

  A figurative sign outside the Bradley Center reads “SOLD”.

Team owner Herb Kohl announced Wednesday he will sell the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million. The new owners are investment partners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens. Milwaukee leaders say the Bucks’ sale is a game changer.

Rumors have been rampant for months that former Sen. Herb Kohl was looking to sell the team he’s owned since 1985. Wednesday, he confirmed the rumors at a press conference at the Bradley Center.

“The process will not be completed until the agreement is reviewed by the NBA and voted on by the Board of Governors, but this is a major step forward in my goal of keeping the Bucks here,” Kohl says.

The Bucks will end this season with the worst record in the NBA. Game attendance is also among the lowest. That made getting public support for a new basketball arena a difficult sell. Now, it’s less of problem. As part of the agreement, Kohl and the new Bucks owners have pledged $200 million dollars toward a new arena. Kohl says that will help ensure the team remains in Milwaukee.

“This is Milwaukee’s team. Now, the Lord helps those who help themselves, and that’s what Mr. Silver has said. We’re on your side 100 percent. You want to stay in Milwaukee. Now you people have to go and do your job, which is to get to a new facility in a timely manner,” Kohl says.

Kohl has owned the team for nearly 30 years. On Wednesday, reporters asked the former senator why he decided to sell now.

“I wasn’t going to live forever. I’ve approached a time in my life where I’ve had to think about how do we approach the idea of succession.  And then it was brought to a head by the need for a new building, and the fact that that’s a project over several years,” Kohl says.

Kohl also says those who will control the team for the long term should be major players in how a new facility is built, and at what cost. He says he could not have found better people to take over than Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens. Lasry co founded a global investment firm while Edens  fouded an asset management company. Edens says big things are coming.

“Milwaukee fans deserve a winning team. This is about winning basketball games, this is about winning championships, this is about being part of the community, and we look forward to all of those,” Edens says.

Edens says that while neither he nor Lasry live in Wisconsin, they plan to spend a lot of time here to make sure their team succeeds. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the news could not have come at a better time.

“We should be shouting from the rooftops because this is a game changer for this entire debate. This is a game changer,” Barrett says.

Barrett says there’s no doubt Milwaukee will move forward with the Bucks.

Rob Baade is a business and economics professor at Lake Forest College. He says he surprised by the team’s price tag.

“If you look at NBA franchise valuations, the Bucks valuations was the lowest of the 30 teams in the league, and it was slightly above $400 million with operating income somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 million,” Baade says.

Baade says fetching $550 million puts the Bucks somewhere in the middle, with teams like the Sacramento Kings and the Orlando Magic. He says the fact that the Milwaukee franchise is going for so much has to mean there’s more to the story.

“It may well be that a new arena is in the offing, and it must be that the $100 million pledge by the new owners for a new arena somehow indicates that the public sector is going to be kicking in a considerable amount of money,” Baade says.

These days, sports arenas start at around $400 million. Herb Kohl says he believes the business community should do all it can to raise money for a new home for the Bucks, before turning to taxpayers for public support.