Friday morning the Milwaukee Bucks announced several new members of the ownership team: New York hedge fund manager Jamie Dinan, Wisconsin Energy Corporation Gale Klappa, Brookfield developer Jon Hammes, and the Partners for Community Impact LLC (PCI). PCI members include Michale Barber, Valerie Daniels-Carter, Virgis Colbert, Charles Harvey, and Cory Nettles. They’re all very important people.
The big name is billionaire Jamie Dinan. According to Forbes, he’s worth $2.2 billion dollars.
Like Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, he’s a major Democratic donor on the national level, so Scott Walker could not possibly care about what he wants. Neither Dinan, Lasry, nor Edens have given any money publicly to Mary Burke, Tom Barrett, or Chris Abele. Until any of these billionaires actually turn the promise of putting their money into Wisconsin into a reality, the politicians’ responses to the very unpopular idea of public funding for a new arena are going to be lukewarm at best.
But Dinan is not necessarily the name to get hung up on.
It’s the local names that are the important ones. Between them, Klappa and Hammes have contributed over $25,000 to Scott Walker in the last three elections. That’s only looking what’s been contributed in their names and not counting what’s been contributed in spouse’s names or to PACs. Klappa has also given $2,000 to Tom Barrett. They also have scattered contributions to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices, State Senators, etc.
They’re connected locally. And they’re connected much further than just the campaign contributions. Regular people, like you and me, we can give money, we can vote, but after the election we’re completely inconsequential until the next election. Gale Klappa is in charge of all gas and electricity in southeast Wisconsin. Hammes is the top healthcare developer in the state and he’s been involved in the renovation of Lambeau Field and the development of the Kohl Center. Their resources are essential toward legitimizing the governing capacity of any regime that’s in charge after the election. They still have a voice after the election. If they’re talking about an arena, then our leaders are talking about arena.
PCI was added to help convince everyone that funneling resources from our poorest neighborhoods into downtown is still a good idea even though that’s one of the many, many reasons for why the insane levels of segregation and poverty exist in the city, but that’s a discussion for another time.
There was quite a panic on the internet yesterday about a secret NBA conspiracy to take the Bucks out of Milwaukee and move them to Seattle. The thinking went that the NBA would encourage, quietly of course, Lasry and Edens to fail to get an arena built in Milwaukee, at which point the league could buy back the Bucks, sell them to an ownership team looking to move them to Seattle and split a billion dollars among the existing owners. Simple as that.
That seemed far-fetched on Thursday and it seems nearly insane on Friday. What was true when the team was purchased was true before the team was purchased and is true today: If an arena gets built, the Bucks will stay in Milwaukee.
Lasry and Edens are smart guys. They know what they don’t have and they know what kind of resources and people they need to get a new arena deal done. These new members of the ownership group reflect that.