Marc Lasry Sells Stake in Milwaukee Bucks at Sky-High Valuation

Photo credit: Michael Barera/WikiMedia

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He shoots, he scores.

Milwaukee Bucks co-owner and private equity billionaire extraordinaire Marc Lasry has sold his stake in the NBA franchise at a valuation of $3.5 billion, sources told The Athletic and ESPN early Monday morning, after co-purchasing the team for just $550 million in 2014. It’s a big win for Lasry, though Bucks fans now find their elite-as-of-late team under the reign of the folks who also own… the Cleveland Browns.

Fear the Deer

Driving up the value of an NBA team has become something of an uncontested layup. Particularly, that is, if owners are willing to spend big on their teams. When Lasry co-led an ownership group with Fortress Investment Group’s Wes Edens (who will now partner with new owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam), the two promptly rehauled the franchise. To avoid a league-dictated sale and likely relocation to Seattle or Las Vegas, Lasry and Edens and other minority owners committed $100 million to construct a new arena to replace the aging Bradley Center. The spending extended to developing the area in downtown Milwaukee around the arena, adding bars and restaurants to create the new “Deer District,” as well as footing a “luxury tax” of $53 million last year and $76 million this year to exceed the salary cap and maintain a title-contending roster.

It’s an investment that has evidently paid off:

  • As recently as November, Forbes estimated the Bucks’ value at $2.3 billion, up 21% year-over-year, and good for 15th in the NBA. Likely driving the $3.5 valuation: Mat Ishiba dropping $4 billion on the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury in December.
  • The Suns’ price tag was the second-highest in pro sports history, behind only the $4.65 billion acquisition of the Denver Broncos led by Walmart heir Rob Walton in June. The Bucks sale is now the third biggest ever.

Heating Up: The good times are rolling in the NBA, and neither the players nor owners are willing to risk a lockout (and lost revenue). Sources told The Athletic on Monday that there’s positivity on both sides that an agreement on the league’s next collective bargaining agreement can be reached ahead of a looming March 31 deadline. One major likely change: allowing players to enter the league immediately after high school, thus eliminating “one-and-done” college hoopers. Please send sympathies to any University of Kentucky alumni in your life.