Basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson, who co-founded private equity firm Admiral Capital Group, never hesitated to solicit financial advice from Avenue Capital Management’s Marc Lasry.
“Marc was very, very helpful from the beginning,” said Robinson, who won two championships with the San Antonio Spurs before taking a minority stake in the team, one of the most successful in the National Basketball Association.
Robinson said in a telephone interview that he’d happily return the favor to Lasry, who along with Fortress Investment Group LLC co-founder Wesley Edens yesterday bought the Milwaukee Bucks for about $550 million from former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl.
The Bucks fit Lasry, whose specialty is investing in distressed companies. The team will finish the regular season with the NBA’s worst record and lowest home attendance.
“I have this thing in my right hand in the NBA; he has in the left hand the financial world -- maybe we can share a little bit,” said Robinson, whose Spurs have won three championships in the past 10 years, losing in last season’s NBA Finals to LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Lasry and Edens agreed to keep the team in Milwaukee, which has only won one NBA title, in 1970-71, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s second season in the league. The Bucks reached the finals for the last time in 1974, losing to the Boston Celtics. A year later the Bucks traded Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Unlike the Spurs, who haven’t missed the postseason since the 1996-97 season, the Bucks have made the playoffs just twice in the past eight years and haven’t won a postseason series since 2001.
“It’s a long-term project. No way you turn around a team that has the challenges that team has overnight,” Robinson said. “Certainly he understands it’s a little bit of a project.”
Kohl pledged $100 million toward the development of a new arena for the Bucks, who have the best chance of getting the No. 1 pick in a June draft that will include University of Kansas teammates Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins.
The Spurs selected Robinson with the top pick in the 1987 draft and then landed perennial All-Star Tim Duncan with the No. 1 pick in 1997.
The Spurs, Robinson said, offer Lasry a guide on how to build a winning franchise in a small market.
“There’s a blueprint out there,” he said. “After watching the Spurs for 20 years you can build a franchise that grows in value and build a winner in a smaller market area.”
Avenue Capital Group was founded in 1995 by Lasry and his sister, Sonia Gardner. It manages $13.6 billion investing in distressed and undervalued companies.
Edens heads the private-equity and publicly traded alternative investment businesses at Fortress, where he is co-chairman of the board. He co-founded Fortress in 1998 with Randal A. Nardone and Robert I. Kauffmann, former colleagues of his at fixed-income manager BlackRock Financial Management. Edens helped engineer Fortress’ buyouts of railroad operator Rail America Inc., nursing home owner Brookdale Senior Living Inc. and servicer Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc.
“One of the things hopefully you’ll see, is that we have a strong desire, I think at times an insane desire, to succeed,” Lasry said at a news conference. “We’re going to try to establish that here with the Bucks.”
Robinson said Lasry, who was on the basketball team at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1977 and 1978, probably wouldn’t be “overly hands on.”
“He’s one of those guys who understand what his role is, who he is and what he can accomplish,” the 1994-95 NBA Most Valuable Player said of Lasry. “He’ll make good decisions for this franchise.”