MILWAUKEE (AP) — The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved the sale Thursday of the Milwaukee Bucks to New York investment firm executives Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, bringing the forlorn franchise one step closer to starting a new era.
Former U.S. senator Herb Kohl reached agreement with them last month for a price tag of about $550 million after they pledged to keep the team in Milwaukee. The NBA said Thursday in a statement that the transaction is expected to close shortly.
The league’s expected approval comes days before the NBA holds its draft lottery. The Bucks, who had a league-worst 15 wins, have the best odds to get the No. 1 pick next week for June’s talent-rich draft.
“The Bucks and their fans will benefit greatly from their vast business experience, energy and strong commitment to Milwaukee,” commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
Lasry and Edens committed to providing $100 million to help build a new arena. Kohl also announced he would donate $100 million for a new facility to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the team’s downtown home, which opened in 1988.
Edens had said he hoped to get a plan completed for a new arena in a year, and have it built in a couple of years. He thought it might take about $400 million to build a new facility, though the new owners might face a tricky task in seeking public funding if they don’t get more private help.
Kohl bought the Bucks for $18 million in 1985. The Milwaukee native, whose family owned a chain of department stores, was hailed as a hometown hero.
Silver praised Kohl for his “unprecedented and historic financial gift toward the construction of a new Milwaukee arena and for his outstanding service to the league and his community over his nearly 30-year tenure.”
An injury-plagued season left the Bucks a franchise-worst 15-67. They have finished above .500 only three times since 2000, though Milwaukee did make the playoffs in 2012-13. The Bucks were swept in four games by Miami in the first round.
With new owners and a 25 percent chance to pick up the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Bucks face a defining offseason. Even if it doesn’t win the lottery, Milwaukee cannot fall below the fourth pick in a draft stocked with top prospects, including Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins.