Wes Edens and Marc Lasry are not from Milwaukee. They are not from Wisconsin. They don’t reside here full time, never have and probably never will.
Wes Edens and Marc Lasry appear to be aware of how that could look to people in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Bucks are transitioning from an owner who was born and raised in Milwaukee and time and again showed his commitment to the state of Wisconsin – and literally represented the state in Washington D.C. – to two guys who have very loose connections to the state.
That doesn’t mean they can’t embrace Milwaukee though. They saw an opportunity to own a basketball team, something they’ve always wanted to do, apparently, and Milwaukee was an option. There are only 30 of these franchises on the planet, so it’s hard to be picky about which one you want. They bought this one and, if yesterday was any indication, are doing everything in their power early on to sell the citizens of Milwaukee on their commitment not only to the team, but to the town as well.
So the new guys took to the town on Thursday for an extensive PR tour of Milwaukee.
The day began at Wauwatosa’s Cranky Al’s Bakery and Pizza, a locally owned shop that’s become something of a fixture in the East Wauwatosa community. Doughnuts were had, pictures were taken and fans were met with.
From there, the owners moved onto the MillerCoors Brewery. Miller is a backbone of the Milwaukee economy and as Milwaukee an institution as there is. The owners had beers, toured the plant and took pictures.
It was onto the practice facility after that, where the owners took a break and had a press conference. Lasry found time to get in games of H-O-R-S-E and P-I-G with Bucks VP Skip Robinson and Bucks forward Chris Wright. No word on the outcomes, but pictures were taken and fun was presumably had.
The day concluded with a meet and greet at McGillycuddy’s on Water Street. Pictures were taken and fans were greeted.
In between, they dropped a variety of newsworthy nuggets (Radio interviews: WKLH, WHQG), the most significant being the morning announcement that the Bucks would be participating in the NBA’s Global Games initiative in London next January with a game against the Knicks. Aside from that, the Milwaukee Business Journal and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had a variety of stories that came out of conversations with the new owners:
- Local investors, between 5-10, will be joining the ownership group.
- These local investors are already being vetted by the NBA.
- They’d like to have a plan for a new arena in Milwaukee completed by next May and they’ll be heavily involved.
- Edens will be the Bucks representative on the board of governors.
But this day was less about news and more about making you feel good about these two guys who bought the team in your city. They seemed quite willing to shake hands and I bet if you put a baby in front of either of them, they would have slapped a kiss on his or her forehead. Yesterday was a PR tour worthy of a politician looking for your votes in the days leading up to an election.
They wouldn’t be the first “outsiders” to come into the Milwaukee sports community and make good. Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has been quite a hit with the local community, largely because he’s overseen one of the most successful runs in Brewers history, if not the longest stretch of okay to very good baseball. He’s been willing to spend money and he’s employed a staff that’s done well. The new Bucks owners have taken notice, according to the Journal-Sentinel:
“Well he’s been successful out here,” Edens said. “It’s much easier to copy than it is to create.
“We want to copy the things he’s done well and adopt them where we think it makes sense. I think a lot of it’s very sensible. He’s engaged well with the community. He built a good foundation. He’s done things you need to do to be successful long-term.”
It’s hard to call yesterday anything but a success, a glance at Twitter will tell you as much. From the photos of a packed McGillycuddy’s to the many tweets about how genuine these two guys appeared to be, it seems like Bucks fans are pretty thrilled with their new owners early on. What does this mean long term? Little. But first impressions are something that people say matter.
These good feelings may be forgotten in a year if there’s no arena plan and the Bucks win 15 games next season, but both Edens and Lasry have given the impression that they know what it takes to be successful in anything they do, so right now, it’s hard to envision failures being in the Bucks future.