Cleveland Browns Owner Could Buy Major Share of Milwaukee Bucks
Jimmy Haslam would buy out Marc Lasry's share of team.
Sportico was the first to report the news Friday. Urban Milwaukee was made aware of the potential sale earlier this week through a source familiar with the discussions.
Lasry, who purchased the team with Edens for $550 million in 2014, has been shopping his interest in the team for several months. The team according to Forbes is estimated to be worth $2.3 billion, but the recent sale of the Phoenix Suns for a $4 billion valuation could push that value even higher.
Mat Ishbia, who purchased the Suns, had extensive discussions with Lasry about purchasing a majority of the Bucks. But that agreement fell apart and Ishbia agreed to purchase the Suns in December.
Lasry, 63, continued to pursue a sale, including to co-owner Edens. His five-year turn as team governor is approaching its end, as is the contract of star forward Khris Middleton. The team faces significant luxury tax payments to retain Middleton, All-Star Jrue Holiday and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The payments would likely require the owners to commit millions to make payroll, but they would recover that money during a future sale.
Lasry is estimated to own approximately 25% of the Bucks, which would give his share a low-end estimated value of $575 million. The original purchase of the Bucks was effectively for $450 million, with Herb Kohl donating $100 million towards a new arena. Dinan was added as a third primary owner after the initial purchase and does not alternate as a governor with Edens and Lasry. The owners, according to sources familiar with the structure, used a substantial amount of financing to complete the purchase.
Haslam, 68, is the chairman of the Pilot Flying J truckstop chain. He purchased the Cleveland Browns in 2012 for $1 billion. Pilot is the fifth largest privately held company in the country and long held a major stake in Flying J. By the end of 2023, Berkshire Hathaway is to acquire all but 20% of Flying J, leaving the Haslam family as the only other owner. Bill Haslam acquired the Nashville Predators professional hockey team in 2022.
Flying J, under Jimmy Haslam’s leadership, paid $85 million in restitution to customers and a $92 million penalty for a rebate scheme that withheld diesel fuel discounts from customers. It entered into a criminal enforcement agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2014. Customers, according to the U.S. Attorney, were defrauded of more than $56 million.
Lasry, who runs private equity firm Avenue Capital Group is a specialist in acquiring, distressed assets.
Lasry and Edens have both been supporters of the Democratic Party. Alex Lasry, who owns a home in Milwaukee and has lived in the city since his father purchased the team, ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022. The younger Lasry, who previously worked at the White House under Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, was also a major player in bringing the Democratic National Convention to Milwaukee. The elder Lasry, who lives in New York City, has five children. Each child has an ownership interest in the Bucks, but only Alex lives in Milwaukee.
Forbes estimates Haslam’s net worth at approximately $4.8 billion. His interest in the Browns is valued at $2.2 billion.
The Browns and Haslam engendered controversy when they signed quarterback DeShaun Watson to a $230 million contract despite his being sued by more than two dozen massage therapists for sexual harassment and sexual assault. Watson has denied wrongdoing and settled 20 of the claims. The quarterback missed the entire 2021 season while on the Houston Texans and was suspended, as part of a settlement between the NFL and the players’ union, for the first 11 games of the 2022 season and fined $5 million. Jimmy and Dee Haslam pledged to donate $1 million towards education to increase awareness of sexual misconduct.
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