Lasry Takes Milwaukee Tour After Buying Bucks

Jun 25 2014 | 6:41am ET

Avenue Capital Group founder Marc Lasry this week introduced himself to the city where he’s expected to help save basketball.

Lasry and Fortress Investment Group co-founder Wesley Edens last month bought the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million. The struggling franchise faces a 2017 deadline to build a new arena—one that the billionaire said will require some public support.

“To get it done, it’s going to end up being a partnership,” Lasry told the Milwaukee Press Club and Rotary Club of Milwaukee. “We need to do it together. Wes and I want to work with the community and sit down with the civic leaders.”

Lasry and Edens have pledged $100 million towards building a replacement for the 26-year-old BMO Harris Bradley Center, and former Bucks owner Herb Kohl has pledged an equal amount. But a new building is expected to cost $400 million.

Lasry warned that, if a deal can’t be reached on a new arena, Milwaukee could lose the Bucks, after all, saying that the National Basketball Association insisted on a “buyback” clause that allows it to acquire the team if a new building falls through.

“The problem we have is in our agreement with the NBA,” Lasry said. “If an arena is not built, the NBA has the right to take the team back. I think we’ve got three or four years to do that. So we’re under huge pressure to do it.”

The Bucks were the worst team in the NBA in the just-completed season, but Lasry on Monday night got a taste of sporting success in Milwaukee, throwing out the first pitch at that evening’s Brewers game. The city’s baseball team has the second-best record in Major League Baseball this season.

Lasry was invited to open the game by Brewers owner Mark Attanasio—who has said he might help finance a new Bucks arena.

“Mark has been exceptionally generous with his time and advice,” Lasry said. “He—from the moment when we bought the team—has gone out of his way to make us feel welcome and really help us.”

Lasry added that Attanasio told him that “the people in Milwaukee are phenomenal fans. They’ll love you if you give them a winner. They’ll really like you if you don’t.”

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