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Report: NBA can buy back Bucks without new arena

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By Don Walker
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 22, 2014

ESPN.com reported Monday that the National Basketball Association has the right to buy back the Milwaukee Bucks from prospective owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry if a deal to build a new arena is not in place by November 2017.

The story cited unnamed sources briefed on the situation.

According to ESPN, the sale agreement, which still awaits final approval from NBA owners, includes a provision that allows the league to buy back the team for $575 million if construction of a new building isn’t under way.

Edens and Lasry are buying the team from former Sen. Herb Kohl for $550 million.

If true, the story is a protection clause of sorts for Edens and Lasry. At the same time, a buyback provision puts new pressure on a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce committee studying ways to finance and build a new arena by fall 2017, the time the Bucks’ lease at the BMO Harris Bradley Center expires.

Bucks officials have said the NBA likely would give the franchise more time beyond 2017 as long as there is progress on a new arena.

In an interview with the Journal Sentinel last week, Edens was asked about the possibility the NBA would buy back the team. He deferred any comment, saying that it would be up to the NBA to comment. An NBA spokesman declined comment Monday.

In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Kohl, the owner of the franchise since 1985, made it clear that without a new arena the Bucks would be gone.

“Ultimately, if we don’t get to a new arena, yes, we will lose our team,” Kohl said. “The money will go away.”

Proponents of an arena have said there will need to be some public support in addition to the $100 million Kohl committed and the $100 million Edens and Lasry said they would be willing to contribute toward a new arena.

There has been no consensus on what kind of public support would be considered, though some form of a sales tax has generated the most discussion. To date, opposition to any kind of new tax, especially a regional tax like the one that helped build Miller Park, has been strong.

Arena proponents are hoping the $200 million committed by Kohl, Edens and Lasry gives an arena project a jump-start. Estimates of a new arena begin at $400 million or more.

Lasry and Edens also indicated they hoped local interests will invest in the arena project. Mark Attanasio, principal owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, said he would be willing to help out financially to build a new arena. Attanasio has declined further comment.



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