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Volume 25 No. 177

Dealmakers In Sports

Bucks co-Owner Wes Edens married his lifelong love of sports with his experience as an investor when he acquired a stake in the team in ’14. During the opening panel of today's Sports Business Journal Dealmakers in Sports conference in N.Y., Edens said he quickly learned that one of the biggest keys to success from his experience outside sports translates directly to owning an NBA team. “It’s just like any other business,” Edens said. “If you hire A-plus people and you hold them accountable and give them responsibility, you have a good chance of things working out. We’ve learned a lot in the last four years and I’m very happy with where the organization is today, both on the court and off the court. And that has a lot to do with the decisions we made about the people.” The publicly funded construction of Fiserv Forum, which opened in August, has been one of the biggest accomplishments for Edens and co-Owner Marc Lasry. After visiting more than 20 NBA arenas -- “it’s like everything in functional real estate: copy what works and ignore what doesn’t,” he said. Edens helped come up with a plan that produced what he called a “spectacular outcome.” When it came to convincing local politicians to contribute funding, he emphasized a simple calculation. “If you add up all the taxes paid by people directly associated with the team over the next 20 years, our estimate was $1.3 billion, and it could be a lot higher than that,” Edens said. “Two hundred million (dollars) for $1.3 billion -- you don’t need a calculator for that.” He is hopeful the home of the Bucks will help “create a new downtown” that embodies the philosophy of “live, work, play.”

BRANCHING OUT TO ENGLAND: Edens’ latest foray into sports ownership was his investment in July in English soccer club Aston Villa, which narrowly missed out on promotion to the EPL this season. Edens, who owns 55% of the club, partnered with Egyptian businessman Nassef Sawiris on the deal. Edens is a longtime soccer fan and attended every World Cup over the last 20 years until the ’18 event in Russia.  Edens said he was overwhelmed by his first experience at historic Villa Park. “I hadn’t been to the stadium before we bought it,” Edens said. “It’s like you bought a club and discovered you owned Fenway Park. It was built in 1897, it’s an incredible facility, really an amazing place.” Edens noted he had previously weighed a bid for an MLS club.