Lasry vows to pursue ‘a level of excellence’

Wearing deck shoes and khaki pants, with his sleeves rolled up, sans socks or a tie, you wouldn’t have guessed that Marc Lasry was the billionaire in the room, much less the new co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Lasry made his first official public appearance as a guest at the Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Breakfast held with the Milwaukee Rotary Club at the War Memorial Center this morning.

With a table of junior executives and family members seated in front of him, shaking their heads as he fielded questions from a media panel, Lasry did his level best to avoid making any news at the breakfast.

Still, Lasry did shed light on how the Bucks’ new owners will go about their business as they take control of an NBA franchise that has floundered by any measure both on and off the floor in recent years under previous owner Herb Kohl.

“Our goal is hopefully to bring a championship team here. The goal is not for us to sort of be OK,” Lasry said. “I grew up (watching) Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson.”

Lasry promised that he and business partner Wes Edens will be “active” owners.

“It’s really just a level of excellence. You don’t tolerate things that are not excellent,” Lasry said.

Lasry said the owners have hired a new chief financial officer, although he declined to disclose the identity of that person. Lasry also said the team plans to hire a new president, “someone who’s excellent.”

Regarding the daunting task of attracting regional support for public financing to build a new arena for the Bucks, Lasry said, “I think so. You want to build something that’s going to get the whole community involved. It is a bit of a revitalization (in downtown Milwaukee)…We’d like to have public support, absolutely…I’m an optimist, but I think next to Wes, I’m a pessimist. He thinks anything can happen.”

Lasry and Edens are meeting with local business leaders in hopes of convincing them to invest and join the ownership team of the Bucks. Those suitors are believed to include Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, investment tycoon Ted Kellner and former Milwaukee Bucks Junior Bridgman and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

From the NBA’s perspective, the opening bid to be a co-owner of the franchise is a stake of $5 million, Lasry said.

“You have to get the NBA’s approval to do anything,” Lasry said. “Everyone is investing at our price.”

He hopes to announce those new additional investors by July 15.

Lasry said the team will adopt a new color scheme and new uniforms. “I’ve been told purple is out because that’s the Vikings,” Lasry said. He also complained about the lack of availability of Bucks merchandise at retailers.

“On the business side, we’ve been lacking,” Lasry said.

Lasry declined to speculate about the location of the new arena, but he said it would need to have a capacity of 16,000 to 18,000 seats, most of which need to be in the “lower bowl.”

The new arena needs to be a year-round destination that includes more revenue-generating elements, including retail and a hotel, Lasry said. “You want it to be more than just a stadium,” Lasry said.

Lasry said the team is accepting requests for proposals from various developers pitching plans for a new arena project.
Lasry also declined speculate which collegiate player the Bucks will select with the second choice in the NBA draft on Thursday.

Lasry is making several other public appearances in the city today and has been invited by Attansio to throw out the first pitch at the Milwaukee Brewers’ game at Miller Park tonight.

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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