Community Leader of the Year: Alex Lasry

BizTimes Best in Business

Alex Lasry
Alex Lasry

Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:33 pm

Despite being born and raised in New York, Alex Lasry now unabashedly claims Milwaukee as his home.

He planted roots here in 2014 to take on a vice president role with the Milwaukee Bucks after the team was purchased by his father, hedge fund manager Marc Lasry, and Wes Edens. Later, Jamie Dinan and Mike Fascitelli joined the group as majority owners.

That career move laid the foundation for what would become a major passion project for Alex Lasry: convincing the Democratic National Committee that Milwaukee is fit to host a major national political convention, historically awarded to top-tier metros.

With Lasry at the helm, a local bid committee — including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, local DNC activist Jason Rae and others — worked to raise funds, garner non-partisan support, meet party prerequisites and make a strong case for Milwaukee, a city that might otherwise be overlooked.

In March, that work paid off when DNC chairman Tom Perez selected Milwaukee over Houston and Miami for the event, promising the region an estimated $200 million in economic impact and an unprecedented amount of national and international exposure.

In recognition of his role in helping Milwaukee win the 2020 DNC, Alex Lasry is the BizTimes Best in Business 2019 Community Leader of the Year.

Lasry recalls two specific events that drove him to lead the bid: the 2016 presidential election and the more recent Amazon HQ2 search.

Like other local Democrats and party supporters, Lasry saw political value in bringing the convention to a swing state that supported the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 (Donald Trump) for the first time since backing Ronald Regan in 1984. But politics aside, he noticed Milwaukee was often left out of the conversation for large-scale events or national headquarters sites. 

“We just weren’t even talked about as a potential city for Amazon (HQ2),” Lasry said. “You’d see cities like Charlotte or Denver, San Diego, Cleveland, Columbus, but you never saw Milwaukee and that, to me, was frustrating.”

He believes hosting a national political convention will give Milwaukee a competitive edge in the future.

“It would show the world what I know to be true about Milwaukee, which is that it’s a top-tier city and a destination city,” he said. “More people need to see Milwaukee and know about Milwaukee because once they do, they’ll fall in love with it.”

Lasry previously worked for the Obama administration as deputy counselor for strategic engagement and was also involved in Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign. He said that experience has come in handy as he navigates the political nature of the convention and the various groups and organizations involved.

But it was local connections, made through the Bucks and Fiserv Forum, that ultimately helped Lasry get both Democrats and Republicans on board during the bid process, he said.

“I was able to talk to those people and say, ‘Hey, getting this convention is more than just politics. This would be a big deal,’” he said. 

Thanks to Lasry, $11 million in local donations had already been secured by the time Milwaukee was selected as host city.

In addition, Cynthia LaConte, CEO of Milwaukee-based The Dohmen Co., had agreed to provide $7.5 million to help fund a $10 million line of credit required to win the DNC bid, according to a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. BizTimes confirmed LaConte’s involvement and financial contribution with a source familiar with the matter. The credit line would serve as emergency funding, only to be used if convention costs exceed the fundraising total.

Emerging as an accomplished leader and champion of Milwaukee at age 32, Lasry claims allegiance to a younger generation of Milwaukeeans who are civically engaged and driven to make an impact.

“They’re seeing all the great things and the creative things that are happening in other cities and they don’t want to move to another city to get those things; they want that to happen here and I think they also see some of the problems that are happening in Milwaukee and want to be a part of fixing it. I’m excited to be a part of that group and do what I can to be a leader and make sure that’s all happening here,” he said.

Lasry remains involved in the DNC as honorary finance chair of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, working to raise a total of $70 million for the July convention and helping the city take full advantage of what’s expected to be a game-changing opportunity.

And those efforts won’t slow once the convention is over. Lasry said he plans to shift his focus toward the “next big thing” — attracting other conventions, national companies, startups and, of course, bringing home an NBA Championship.

“We just grabbed the biggest convention, now we have to capitalize on this opportunity,” he said.

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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