Herb Kohl has been owner of the Milwaukee Bucks for 26 years now, and for 22 of those years he has held the title of Senator. After 2012, we'll have to find some other way to address him.
Today Kohl announced that he would not run for re-election in 2012 after holding one of Wisconsin's senate seats since 1989, just 4 years after he purchased the Bucks from Jim Fitzgerald in 1985. Prior to buying the Bucks, Kohl was a stock and real estate investor before serving as president of his family's Kohl's grocery and department stores from 1970 to 1979.
While we'll leave the government implications to those who cover that, we're left to wonder what this means for the Bucks, who it's no secret are on somewhat shaky financial ground (well, If David Stern is to be believed, most teams are...) and in need of a new arena. Some have speculated that Kohl would look to sell the team once he was no longer in the Senate, and with very few if any people in Wisconsin that would be looking to buy it, this could pose a bit of a problem. However, the man himself says that's not so:
"Oh, no," he said when asked if his ownership period had come to an end. "I really enjoy owning the team. At some point there will be another owner and it will be someone committed to keeping the team in Wisconsin."
We can only hope, right? Whatever the case, Kohl's departure from public service also changes the arena game a bit. It was always going to be difficult to see Kohl the Senator standing up and asking for a new taxpayer-funded arena--as much as it might be necessary for the Bucks' long-term future, the conflict of interest and political repercussions are obvious. However, once he's not "just another politician," perhaps the door could be opened to a real dialogue about the arena issue, though we also probably shouldn't hold our breath as long as the Bucks are struggling on the court.
As for if leaving Washington will affect Kohl's involvment in the operations of the team, John Hammond doesn't think so:
Hammond indicated he did not believe much would change in Kohl's operation of the franchise, even though the 76-year-old Kohl will no longer spend so much time in Washington. "He's an owner who is involved but allows us to do our jobs to the best of our abilities," Hammond said.
Kohl definitely seems to want the Bucks to succeed in the worst way, but it's hard to look past the 16 losing seasons in the last 20 years and feel comfortable about the team moving forward. One thing's for sure though: the upcoming labor negotiations will have a huge impact on the future of the Bucks in Milwaukee, and a CBA that gives small market teams a better chance to compete would go a long way for a team like the Bucks and Kohl's ownership of the team. For now though, we can either appreciate what we have in an owner like Kohl, or complain about what we don't have. The truth is, it's a little of both, and we might just have to accept that.