Marc Lasry’s name has been floating around the NBA media rumor mill for a bit now, mostly in connection with the possibility of his cashing in and selling out his ownership stake in the Milwaukee Bucks. Per Marc Stein, it looks increasingly likely that a sale will move from the realm of theory to that of reality:
My report on the growing possibility of significant ownership changes in Milwaukee, with league sources telling @TheSteinLine that Marc Lasry could sell his stake in the franchise to co-owner Wes Edens: https://t.co/0ym4lEg3ky— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 28, 2022
A recap of the recent history: The first mention of Lasry’s stake in the team getting the rich guy Craigslist treatment came in the wake of Robert Sarver’s declared intention to sell his ownership of the Phoenix Suns (after being suspended by the NBA following an investigation into reports of Sarver’s less-than-sparkling history of racist and sexist remarks in the Suns workplace). This made logical sense for Lasry. His partial ownership of the team has always been a fusion of financial investment plus wealthy guy power totem plus toehold to allow his family to enter federal politics through the Midwestern backdoor that is Wisconsin. When his son Alex Lasry’s attempt to win one of Wisconsin’s senate seats failed in the run up to this fall’s midterm elections, the Bucks no longer served Marc as a political platform. Phoenix being openly on the market was bound to generate a lot of financial interest from a range of individuals and institutions, and so whoever missed out on nabbing the Suns could perhaps move whatever financing package they already had in place over to Milwaukee. Get out while the getting is good and all that.
What’s interesting, though, is Marc Stein’s report that it looks more likely that Lasry will end up selling directly to his co-owner, Wes Edens.
Edens has been somewhat out of the picture since he handed over the controlling governorship of the Bucks to Lasry back in 2019 – per their contract when they purchased the Bucks, the two would swap the governor’s chair every five years and would go back to Edens in the summer of 2024. Since handing the primary reins over to Lasry, Edens has gone on to help purchase the English soccer team Aston Villa and continues his work at the private equity firm he co-founded, Fortress Investment Group. That he is actively interested in just buying from Lasry also makes some sense (to my barely financially-literate mind): NBA teams continue to soar in valuation as evidenced by the $4 billion slapped down to purchase the Suns, there is another lucrative media rights deal on the horizon, Giannis Antetokounmpo is just 28 years old, and Edens can farm out fractional shares of ownership from time to time without ever handing over majority control of the team.
For the Bucks themselves, a sale to Edens looks like it’d be the least rocky option available organizationally. It would avoid the need to hash out a new governorship arrangement should Lasry sell his stake in full to another individual and may indeed simplify the hierarchy of command within the company. There would be less of a chance of a direct clash of wills between the rich guys like we saw with the departure of Justin Zanik and elevation of Jon Horst to GM with Edens’s backing and controlling supervote on the matter. Successes or failures, corporate funding and luxury tax decisions, and personnel choices would fall to Edens and Edens alone. Ideally, in that scenario Edens would let the GM do what he needs to do while writing increasingly large checks to keep Giannis happy and in Milwaukee. Whether that is the reality we get is to be determined.
So, no real news is the new news, but it is something to keep an eye on. Throughout the Lasry-Edens era the Bucks went from bumbling backwater losers to sleek Fortune 500-style championship winners – thanks mostly to Giannis Antetokounmpo, yes, but there is also credit due to the far-reaching upgrades made to team facilities and financial heft since they came aboard. All we can do is speculate about what his departure would mean for the on-court product (see: this entire article).
The Bucks and ED. Sounds about right.