Three weeks after rumors of a Bucks sale first began to swirl, ESPN's Bill Simmons took to Twitter on Saturday to stoke the fires once again.
Hearing the Milwaukee Bucks are very VERY close to being sold pending league approval. Might be done already. PS: Not to the Seattle guys.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 5, 2014
Owner Herb Kohl has been clear about his intent to only sell to investors committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee, so in that sense there's no surprise that Chris Hansen's Seattle group wouldn't be involved with the Bucks' hypothetical sale.
However, it is worth noting the language Simmons uses: "being sold" would seem to suggest that we're not just talking about new minority investors, but rather a new majority owner or ownership consortium.
Most Bucks fans would of course welcome a change at the top of their struggling franchise, which Kohl bought in 1985 amid concerns that the franchise might leave Milwaukee. Thirty years later that's once again top of mind for Kohl and the team's fans, mainly due to concerns over the long-term viability of the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver made it clear last fall that the league doesn't see the arena as an acceptable venue beyond the team's current lease, which expires in 2017. A sale of the team would seem the necessary first step in the arena building process, as Kohl would likely need money from the team's sale in order to make the "substantial" contribution he's promised.
While a number of sources suggested in mid-March that a sale was not imminent, the Bucks' position at the bottom of the league's standings would provide a strong incentive for new ownership to be in place before the all-important 2014 NBA draft in late June. With Philadelphia now three wins ahead of them in the lottery standings, the Bucks are virtually assured a top-four pick in the draft and figure to have the best odds (25%) of landing the coveted first overall selection. That decision figures to have significant long-term ramifications on the team's competitiveness, so expect prospective owners to be very interested in having a say.
What's less clear is who might actually be buying the Bucks. Former Buck-turned-restaurant-mogul Junior Bridgeman and Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio are the most prominent names to have been tossed around in recent months, but neither has the individual fortune to buy the team outright. Former Timberwolves GM David Kahn was also mentioned as leading a potential ownership group back in February, but there's been little detail on where that group's money was coming from or whether they were even committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee.
UPDATE: Some more details from Simmons:
Off last tweet: NBA would rather see Bucks stay in Milwaukee but a new arena has to be part of it. Franchise alone will go for 525-550 mill.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 5, 2014
Off last tweet: the NBA has been helping Herb Kohl quietly shop the Bucks around w/o letting it turn into a stay-or-leave soap opera.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 5, 2014
Note that the Kings sold at a valuation of $534 million last year, with Vivek Ranadive's new ownership group pledging an additional 200 million in funding for the team's proposed new arena in Sacramento.