The southwest lobby of the BMO Harris Bradley Center was jam-packed Wednesday afternoon, as the Bucks informed everyone that there would be a major announcement taking place. After a brief introduction, Herb Kohl took the stand and announced that he had agreed to sell the team to Marc Lasry and Wes Edens for approximately $550 million dollars.
"I am pleased to announce that we have been successful [in our search for new owners]. This process started late last year when I asked Steve Greenberg of Allen & Co to help me look for financially capable investors who shared my love of the game and who shared my commitment to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee. I believe we did a great job in finding the two gentlemen I am pleased to introduce to you here today. I can tell you that there was a lot of interest in the Bucks, and there were a large number of potential investors emerged. The process evolved along the way, but most important to me was finding investors who shared my commitment to keeping the Bucks in this city."
Lasry and Edens, who are both preparing to assume the role of proud parents of the franchise, were introduced next. Who are these men, exactly? Our guy Dan Sinclair covered that topic earlier today. Edens was the first member of the duo to speak.
"Milwaukee fans deserve a winning team. This is about winning basketball games, about wining championships; this is about being part of the community, and we look forward to being a part of this."
After Edens issued a brief "thank you" message, Lasry took to the podium.
I think for us, one of the things I hope you'll see is that we have a strong desire, and at times an insane desire, to succeed. We're going to try to establish that and do that here with the Bucks and trying to build quickly, as Wes said, over the course of the next five to ten years bring a championship to the city, and try and keep on building and become part of the community that you guys have here. I think for us, we just wanted to say thank you. It's a real honor.
Lasry said that he and Edens both plan to spend a huge chunk of their time in Milwaukee devoting themselves to their new job. He also noted that having a pair of prospective owners would be beneficial in case one was not able to tend to matters locally.
The new owners also had a surprise for the Bucks community. They pledged to contribute at least $100 million to a new arena project, which looks even better when paired with Herb Kohl's promised gift of $100 million. Edens estimated that the 21st century ''community building'' they were hoping to build would cost somewhere around $400 million. To perhaps have roughly half of that price covered already—and with more private sector funding hopefully coming down the line—the amount the public would have to contribute may be kept to a more manageable number, which would be welcome news to Wisconsin residents.
Speaking of the arena and the requisite funding, Edens said that everyone involved hoped to have the money for the new building in the next year or so, with construction taking place over the following couple of years. The lease on the BMOHBC expires in 2017, which fits into Edens' projected plan.
Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC) president Tim Sheehy was also on hand, and he spoke briefly about Kohl, the new owners, and the impact this announcement has on the city of Milwaukee.
"As we look forward, I have this message to the rest of the world: When somebody invests $550 million in your market, take note, because this is evidence of the confidence that we all have; that Milwaukee is a prosperous place, and [that] we are going to be successful going forward. To Milwaukeeans, I also say take note, because the announcement of this generous gift [of $200 million dollars] and the investment in a new facility, I believe, is going to light the fuse on a new era of development."
Questions from the audience came next, and here are the highlights from that segment of the event.
Question (for new owners): What are your plans for the current management and coaching staff?
Edens: "It's day one for us. We're all about hiring the right people and putting the right people in place. We're going to figure it out."
Without having much time to get acclimated to the current management and coaching staff, all that Edens offered outside of those select quotes was that they would assess what they have and make decisions from there.
Question (for Kohl): Is there an understanding that a new arena is crucial to keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee?
"Oh yes, everybody understands that, in order to get to longevity in Milwaukee, we need to get to a new facility. But I want to emphasize that it's not just for the Bucks. When we get to our new facility, the Bradley Center will be 30 years old, the oldest facility in the league. This [new facility will be] a different kind of facility, it will be a community facility. I believe we're doing the right thing at the right time with the right people, and that good things will happen."
Kohl closed by saying that his 29-year tenure as owner of the Bucks has been the thrill of a lifetime, and that he's enjoyed every bit of it.
"So for me this is a fork in the road, and it's time to pass it on to new people who are going to enjoy it equally [as much as I did]. I'm happy for them, and I'm happy for myself. I think all this could energize our fan base. I wouldn't be surprised to see a spike in our season ticket sales, because we have new owners, a new outlook, and enthusiasm. It's all part of the life cycle and I'm a very happy man to be here."
Thanks to Kohl, Bucks fans can look forward to being happy to be here for many years to come.
There was plenty more to take in, so if you missed any of the press conference you can re-watch it here.
Here's the official press release from Steve Greenberg of Allen and Company:
"We began this process back in December. Since then, we have been gratified by the amount of interest we have seen in the Bucks. There were numerous parties interested in partnering with Senator Kohl. Many others preferred to bid for the entire franchise. We received 9 such bids, all of which we vetted with Senator Kohl.
Of all the qualified buyers who emerged in this process, Wes and Marc stood out as the most committed to keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee and creating an environment that will be great for Bucks fans throughout the entire region."
And here's the official release from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver:
"As a public servant, philanthropist and owner of the Bucks, Senator Herb Kohl has had an extraordinary impact on his home city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. His historic and unprecedented $100 million gift to the city of Milwaukee to secure the future of this franchise emphatically underscores his passion, commitment, and generosity to his community."