MILWAUKEE (AP) — Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam have agreed to purchase Marc Lasry’s 25% stake in the Milwaukee Bucks in a deal that puts the value of the NBA franchise at $3.5 billion, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said Monday.
The agreement has not been finalized, said the person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the Bucks nor the Haslams publicly disclosed any element of the agreement.
The Haslams have explored buying other professional sports teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves in the past. Sportico was the first to report the Haslam Sports Group’s interest in the Bucks. ESPN and The Athletic were the first to report the agreement on Monday.
Those numbers, if finalized, would mean the Haslams plan to spend about $875 million for Lasry’s stake in the team.
It would be the second-highest valuation in NBA history, behind only the $4 billion valuation for the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury when Mat Ishbia acquired them in a deal that closed earlier this month. It’s also a massive return on Lasry’s initial investment.
Lasry and Wesley Edens, both New York investment firm executives, bought the Bucks from former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl for about $550 million in 2014 with pledges to keep the team in Milwaukee. The Bucks’ ownership group also includes Jamie Dinan and Mike Fascitelli.
The Bucks have enjoyed great success since that sale. They moved into a new arena in 2018, won their first NBA title in 50 years in 2021 and have built a perennial contender around Greek superstar and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The surging valuations almost certainly mean that the expansion fees will be well beyond what was originally thought when the NBA decides to add teams — something that will likely start getting discussed seriously once the league and the union complete their talks on a new labor agreement and the NBA completes its next rights deal with broadcast partners.
If the Suns and Bucks are both being valued in the $3.5-to-$4 billion range, it stands to reason that expansion fees will be at least that much and likely more when the league decides the time is right to add clubs.
“It is natural at some point that an organization expands,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this month at the All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City.
“The view from our governors has been let’s figure out exactly what the new CBA looks like, let’s figure out what our new media deals look like. Then let’s think about expansion,” Silver said. “So invariably we will. There’s no active discussions in the league office right now, but we’ll turn back to it in a few years.”
The Haslams purchased the Browns from Randy Lerner for a little over a billion dollars in 2012.