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NBA’s Bucks sold in $550m deal

Longtime owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, Herb Kohl, has agreed a deal to sell the NBA basketball franchise to New York investment firm executives Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens for $550m (€398.5m).

The agreement was announced ahead of Wednesday night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, an 111-103 defeat which resulted in the Bucks ending the season with an NBA-worst 15-67 record. Retired US senator Kohl bought the Bucks for $18m in 1985 and in December had begun a search for new partners to serve alongside him within the team’s ownership group. The Bucks were frequently cited as a candidate for relocation and Kohl had been seeking the finance necessary to build the new arena deemed crucial to their future in Wisconsin.

Under the terms of the agreement, which has yet to be signed off by the NBA Board of Governors, Edens and Lasry have agreed to buy the team for a total purchase price of approximately $550m. Furthermore, consistent with his commitment to the Bucks and Milwaukee, Kohl has pledged a $100m “gift” for the development of a new arena for the team. In addition to honouring Kohl's requirement that the team be kept in Milwaukee, the new owners have committed to contribute at least an additional $100m towards the development of a new arena in the city, which will replace the outdated Bradley Center.

Edens is a founder and co-chairman of the board of directors of Fortress Investment Group. Lasry is the chairman, chief executive and a co-founder of Avenue Capital Group. Allen and Company, which led the search for investors, said the Bucks had received nine takeover bids. Edens and Lasry said: “We are lifelong basketball fans who are committed to the success of the Bucks and the identity of the team as a part of the city of Milwaukee. It is our vision for this franchise to be admired both locally and nationally for its success on the court, the quality of its organisation and the loyalty of its fan base. Having each built competitive teams in the business world, we will apply that same intensity and determination as owners of the Milwaukee Bucks.

“Furthermore, we are committed to spending a significant amount of personal resources, including a contribution of at least $100m, to work alongside the community and Senator Kohl to develop a new state-of-the-art sports venue in Milwaukee. We want to provide fans with the best sports experience imaginable, and we believe a new arena and the development of the surrounding downtown area will immensely benefit the game-day atmosphere as well as the city of Milwaukee.”

Kohl added: “Today's announcement signals the start of a new, exciting era for the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, with a long-term commitment from the new owners and major components of the funding in place for a new arena, we need to come together as a community to develop plans for a new sports and entertainment facility that will host more than 200 events a year, including Bucks games. I am confident we will do this.”

In January, Forbes valued the Bucks at $405m, last among the NBA’s 30 franchises.