By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
(Reuters) - Hedge fund managers Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens are buying the National Basketball Association's Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million from businessman and former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, becoming the latest Wall Street financiers to own a sports club.
"I believe they are the right people and the right fit at the right time," Kohl said at a news conference in Milwaukee announcing the purchase as Lasry and Edens grinned nearby.
The Bucks, valued by Forbes at $405 million and ranked as the last team in the 30-member league, have been on the block since late last year, Kohl said. He said Lasry and Edens, who are lifelong basketball fans, won the bid in part because of their commitment to keep the team in Wisconsin.
Lasry runs Avenue Capital together with his sister, Sonia Gardner, and Edens co-founded Fortress Investment Group.
The two men, whose firms are headquartered in New York, emerged as potential buyers only recently and beat out a group led by Seattle-based former Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer.
Kohl, a Wisconsin native, bought the team 29 years ago, and said he was committed to keeping it in his home state.
Lasry said that for him and Edens buying the team is a "dream come true" and underscored the pair's intention to build a new arena and help the team win a championship. "We have a strong desire, some would say an insane desire, to win," Lasry said at the news conference.
The National Basketball Association still needs to finalize the deal.
Lasry and Edens now join a growing list of Wall Street billionaires who have turned their love of sports into team ownerships.
Steven A. Cohen, whose SAC Capital Advisors changed its name this month to Point72 Advisors after pleading guilty to insider trading, owns a minority stake in the New York Mets baseball team. Jeffrey Vinik, who once ran Fidelity's Magellan Fund before launching his own hedge fund, owns the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and John W. Henry, a former commodities trader, owns the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
The Bucks, which last year had an operating profit of $11 million on $109 million of revenue, according to Forbes, hired Allen & Company to find buyers for the team.
(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)