Bill Simmons is back from suspension at ESPN and is now running his annual NBA previews for all 30 teams. During the Milwaukee Bucks preview he brought up a forgotten nugget concerning the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks that could suddenly turn into a huge windfall for NBA owners.
In May, the NBA approved the sale of the Bucks to new owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry for a then-NBA record $US550 million.
Shortly after the sale, Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN.com learned that as part of the agreement, the NBA had the right to buy back the team for $US575 million if a new arena was not approved, built, and ready to use by November, 2017.
This did not seem like that big of a deal at the time because there was time to build the arena and there would have been little to gain for the NBA by purchasing the franchise.
But then the Donald Sterling fiasco in Los Angeles happened and Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers for $US2 billion. Now, five months later, the Bucks still don’t even have a location for a new stadium and the Bucks are worth a lot more than $US575 million.
Here is where Simmons comes in with his conspiracy theory.
If the Bucks can’t get a new stadium built before the deadline, the NBA could buy the team for $US575 million and then turn around and sell the team to a group in Seattle for an estimated $US1.6 billion.
That would be a cool $US1.025 billion profit for the league or about $US35.3 million for each of the other 29 owners. As Simmons put it, “it’s in [the NBA’s] vested interest for Milwaukee not to have an arena.”
It would also solve the problem of putting an NBA team back in Seattle, something the NBA has made a priority in recent years.
An alternative theory proposed by Simmons is that the NBA could agree to not buy the team if the new Bucks owners agree to not build a new arena and pony up some more money — presumably a transfer fee of a few hundred million — and they would be able to remain owners by moving the team to Seattle.
Instead of investing $US550 million for a team in Milwaukee, Edens and Lasry would then have invested maybe $US900 million for a team in Seattle that may be worth closer to $US1.6 billion.
That’s still a pretty good deal and everybody wins. Well, except for the Bucks fans in Milwaukee.
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