Ric Bucher: All right. Welcome to another episode of Bucher and friends part of the United We Cast network. I’m Ric Bucher. You can read my stuff on Bleacher Report. And find me on Twitter, @RicBucher and you can follow the show on Twitter and Instagram, @BucherFriends. It’s my great pleasure to have as a guest. He’s probably best known as co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks to most people, Wes Edens. Wes, Thank you so much for taking the time. I’m really looking forward to this conversation largely because we’re here. We’re here at all star weekend. And just give me your general impressions of what you’ve seen so far.
Wes Edens: You know it’s, first of all thanks for having me on the show it’s a real pleasure. You know that all star weekend is a celebration. It’s a celebration of the sport. It’s a celebration of the league, it’s a celebration of the diversity of our fans and everything that goes with it, so it’s just a lot of fun.
Ric Bucher: So your other co-owner, one of the other co-owners Marc Lasry, played in the celebrity game. First of all how much did you, did you watch? Did you pay attention to that particular performance?
Wes Edens: This year I got here a little bit late, but I watched it on TV. I saw a little bit of it on TV. Mark out there, you know making his way.
Ric Bucher: And what would it what would it take for us to see Wes Edens out there running up and down the court in shorts.
Wes Edens: You know I don’t think it’s really for me. I play a lot of basketball at different times but it’s a celebrity game and I don’t feel like I’m a celebrity, so I’m just I’m happy to watch from the sidelines.
Ric Buchers: I don’t know about that. I would just for me. I think we’re, we’re comparative ages. Yeah, just the idea of getting up and down the floor and knowing there’s some 20 somethings out there. I mean first of all when I saw Ray Allen and Donte Jones out there, I’m thinking this is a recipe for some embarrassment here.
Wes Edens: Yeah, yeah nuts. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great opportunity to see guys that you don’t normally see on the basketball court out there having fun. So Mark does a great job representing us.
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Ric Buchers: All right, so your sports – you were competitive skier growing up.
Wes Edens: I was, yep.
Ric Buchers: And you continue to climb rocks or be a rock climber.
Wes Edens: I do, yeah.
Ric Buchers: Which by the way how many how many owners in the league are in either of those pursuits that you know of.
Wes Edens: Not many. Maybe no one. I don’t, I don’t know anybody else that climbs. It was natural for me because I grew up on the mountain. So you do as an adult what you did as a kid and it was a big part of my growing up, to spend time in the mountains and I still love it.
Ric Buchers: I want to say Peter Guber with the Warriors. [Yeah]. Told me a while back, I think, for his 70th birthday he did some massive climb somewhere to celebrate.
Wes Edens: Oh that’s fun. I talked to Peter about that.
Ric Buchers: Yeah yeah. So you’re not alone. I think there’s somebody else who’s out there. What is that for you? Because I surf and so for me it’s it’s an all consuming out in nature, I can kind of relate it a little bit to rock climbing. My wife did that for a time, and for me, it’s just like I’m not connected to any technology. I have to have my full attention and I’m at the whims of nature.
Wes Edens: Yeah, I think there’s probably great similarities. I’ve always surfed a little bit, but I think that you know, first of all I think it’s really positive to do things that make you uncomfortable. And I think it’s humbling, I think it’s centering. I think it’s focusing, it’s all those things and the mountains for me represent so many positive things in my life. And they don’t care who you are, or what you’ve done and where you’re going. They just, they are there and it’s not a matter of conquering the mountains, that’s not the concept, it’s really just being a part of it. And you have to pay attention, of course, but I love it.
Ric Buchers: What was the last big rock you climbed?
Wes Edens: Last summer, I did a climb called the Cathedral traverse which is one of the three tallest Tetons in Jackson Hole, which are my favorite parts of the world. So Teewinot, Owen and then you finish on the north face of the grand. So you climb, you know the steep side of it, and there’s this great rock climb called the time cracks, big committed rock climb at the end of it, a lot of stomping around to get to that point. So it’s something I wanted to do for an awfully long time and it was really, it was really amazing.
Ric Buchers: What’s the dodgyest or riskiest situation you’ve ever found yourself in climbing?
Wes Edens: You know, I’ve had a few things that have happened. I almost repelled myself off the rope about six seven years ago in a place called Pingora. Another big rock climb down in the Wind River Range. That was a mistake that was made while trying to rush to get off a mountain in the middle of a storm, and you know, would’ve been a bad mistake. But it’s not so much the exposure from the big climbs that causes the problems. You can’t be roped in, necessarily, as you kind of move around all those places. Yeah. And so it’s not the very hard parts necessarily that have real consequences if something bad happens. And those are those are the things that keep you up at night when you think about it. A little slip and fall.
Ric Buchers: Last time I clocked myself with my surfboard it was like three feet waves. It was the smallest of waves and I was kind of goofing around fell off and popped up. And here comes my board and whack right in the fore head. So I know, I know that very one you know when it’s when it’s real dicey you’re on your game and you can get a little sloppy when you feel like it.
Wes Edens: Yeah but it’s you when you do that. That was a couple of days up there and we had some rough weather and you know 50 mile an hour winds and that got blew in a bunch of ice. We couldn’t climb one day and there’s those kinds of things. When you finish a climb like that when I do that. Yeah. You just so cleaned out mentally. You’ve been so focused for such a long period time and you know if there’s a drug you could take that make you feel that way I would take it. But it is the only way to do it is you’re just so focused on every footfall for day after day in difficult physical situation. And it’s just such a rewarding thing.
Ric Buchers: And do you not. You don’t take any technology with you. Are you completely off the grid while you’re up there or?
Wes Edens: Completely off the grid. Yeah. It would not be a positive to have your phone going off in your back pocket.
Ric Buchers: Now how long does it take you to decompress and not like think about some email or something like the fact that you’re disconnected. How long does it take you to get to that point where you feel like you really appreciate that you’re disconnected?
Wes Edens: It takes a day or two. It’s not a media because you have all these things running around your brain and all the things you needed to do and want to do. And then as soon as you get kind of slapped in the face by some little part of it. Right. Those are pointy rocks. It tends to move in the right direction but it’s it’s a wonderful thing I’ve been really lucky to have access to it and going to continue it.
Ric Buchers: So how does a kid who grew up on a ranch in Montana wind up going to Oregon State.
Wes Edens: You know the first year of college I decided to stay in state and so I went to Montana State for a year which probably was not the right decision. As I look back on it because I really was ready to move on and so I went there and I had a good first year down about I just knew I wanted to move on and do other things. And you know Montana is an incredible part of the world. I love going back there my much my family still lives back there but I knew very clearly from a pretty young age that there was other things for me. And so when it got to be after one year I said I just want to move on and you know Oregon is close but still yet far enough away and it was a really good choice. I had a really good experience out there and it kind of really jump-started everything else.
Ric Buchers: It’s interesting to think about all the financial success you’ve had. And yet I look at the path you’ve taken and the places that you lived and it’s very sort of off the beaten path. I mean when I see residents as New York it kind of doesn’t fit with the appearance or the personal history that I’ve come to know.
Wes Edens: Yeah, you know I moved to New York and I was quite sure I’d be there for a year or two years at the most, nervous you know, 30 odd years ago. So, but New York has got so many positives as well and some I really took from my dad, as he’d like to say you know, to focus on the positives and don’t let the negatives kind of get to you. And that in many respects is just a great way to go about it. New York has so many positives it’s an incredible place credible diversity. You know, people really care about what they’re doing to try and hard, the fact that it’s also urban and, you know, you maybe don’t have as much access to the outdoors. Other things are maybe not some of the positives but it’s a it’s been a good place and from a business standpoint it’s been obviously is the epicenter of the financial universe. It’s been a good place to be.
Ric Buchers: So being raised on a ranch in Montana [Yep] by a psychologist dad and a schoolteacher Mom. How do you think that’s shaped you and your world view?
Wes Edens: Well I think in every respect and I think that’s a really that’s a really interesting question. I think both psychology and school teaching require a great deal of empathy. And I consider myself a very empathetic person I try to take the other perspective on things I think that’s helped me a great deal professionally frankly from the investment standpoint. And so they’re both highly intelligent they readers love the outdoors and they’re great empathetic individuals and so they’re all a great role models for that.
Ric Buchers: So in looking at that how do you think when you look at your you’ve been I think Wall Street Journal referred to you as the underdog Investor which I don’t know do you agree with it. Do you like that that kind of tag and what it suggests?
Wes Edens: Well I think that underdogs are frequently just misunderstood. Right and that’s where I think of the opportunities is that it’s not so much to pick something because it’s an underdog. But I try to find things where I think maybe I see something where others don’t. And so it’s less a matter of picking something specifically because it’s an underdog but more the attributes are. It may not be well known and maybe not well understood and that’s been the source of some some good opportunities over time.
Ric Buchers: I would think so which kind of brings us to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wes Edens: There you go.
Ric Buchers: Because you know a lot of people would look at that and look at that investment and look at Milwaukee and the challenges at the time in terms of a new arena and all that. What was it that you saw in that situation that appealed to you?
Wes Edens: Well first of all you know Milwaukee and Wisconsin are tremendous hotbeds for sports. You know when you look at the you look at the sport that they give for the local colleges whether it’s Marquette or the University of Wisconsin and then of course you look at the support of the Packers which you know they’re following across the state I think is unparalleled across the NFL right. So there’s no question that they are great sports fans. And you know the Bucks have lost their way a little bit and we’re out of favor and so you know maybe that contributed to where they were. You know Senator Kohl I think it was a great steward of the team for many many years. But sometimes change is what you need to kind of you move it around. And they had this situation where they needed a new arena to come into the standard for the rest of it. And that was certainly a challenge. But I thought when you looked at it there would be support if we did this the right way and it turned out that way.
Ric Buchers: And I heard coming in that you and Marc just randomly attend NBA games across the country. You just you just happen to be in an area you check the schedule you buy a ticket is it is it planned out and are you just kind of rolling in and checking things out or or how does that go?
Wes Edens: Yeah. Look I’m a I’m a junkie right. I really love the sport. I think it’s a it’s an amazing product that they’ve got. And so whether I can watch it randomly in an arena because I’ll travel and see our team but other teams do. Right. Or watching on TV. You know I think and I think that the product has gotten better and better and better. I think that this year is an incredible year. So there’s literally just about nothing I’d rather watch on TV and watch that much TV. But I if I turn it on gonna turn on an NBA channel and go see was on.
Ric Buchers: The first thing I noticed even before you guys moved into the new building there was a different vibe in the building. I think part of it was the supporters section and the M.K. E. But there was like there was just like a cool factor that quite honestly when I had come into Milwaukee to watch the Bucks I liked it because of the tradition of the franchise and that it was it did have that kind of hometown feel. But it also felt like we’re still 1974. [Yes]. And it and I liked you guys have found a way to kind of combine the two and I just wonder how you how you came to that or how you fostered that?
Wes Edens: Yeah. You know when we went to a game we were looking at the team. It was a Saturday afternoon and the Bucks were the worst in the league and it was not a very exciting environment. At that point which is not the fair time because it’s like a Saturday afternoon in the middle of March at the end of the long season is not so exciting. But I think when you look at the world we live in now you know people have got these amazing television screens that are stuck up on their walls and they’ve got a great way to experience it from their homes. You have to make the environment be something that makes them want to get out of the house and go to the arena. And so you know like like all good decisions we’ve made the box. I mean literally all of them they really all start about like who we hired. And so we hired Peter Fagan to run our business side of it. And Peter has been a tremendous ambassador for us out there and we just said let’s create the best environment that we can now. We had some limitations with that we had the old building but we still I think you know I’m I’m glad you felt that way because we certainly felt that you know we rebranded the team we got different colors we got to our gear we made you know the supporters section we did all the things we could do and now of course it’s gone to a completely different level with the new arena.
Ric Buchers: All right. Well I have to admit that the first time that I noticed it I was there when the Warriors came in undefeated. So the atmosphere was kind of it was a back Novak after what going into double overtime I think in Boston the night before right. And so your fans were in full throat for sure.
Wes Edens: Did you see. Did you see our shirts?
Ric Buchers: Yes. Yes I did. Yes I did the whole. Yeah. No no no. I loved it but that was but that was the thing. There was there was some forethought and there was some cheekiness and there was just like there was a lot of there was elements there.
Wes Edens: It’s a it’s a really fine story so we had played Portland earlier in the week and we won actually. John has been a big block out there. The game is really a competitive game. And I went back in the locker room afterwards and was talking to Coach Kidd and I said I’ve got an idea. You know we play the Warriors you know and a few days if they win out the next couple games are going to come in here in 24 now. And I think we should make up the shirts that say 24 and 1. And he said Oh I think that’s a really bad idea.
Ric Buchers: Did he really?
Wes Edens: Yeah that’s it. Now come on. This will be fun. And if we win you know we’ll be famous for having called it. If we lose there’ll be kids like in Africa where in 24 in Russia they you know a lot about it right. And you know it’s one of those things and it just worked out really funny. And of course then I think the Warriors took it you know seriously I think Steph actually asked us for a copy of one of those shirts which we sent to him and saw. It’s all good fun right there. There is such an amazing team that year and so you’re right. We caught him in the last game of a of a long road. They had just like it’s really so very funny though.
Ric Buchers: But you know give you guys your guys credit. I mean they stepped to it too and it was just it was a lot of fun just to be in that atmosphere in Milwaukee. Yeah that was. That was the great distinction for me. All right. One of the other elements that you know speaking of great teams and chasing championships that’s obviously something that you have in mind. We’re just coming out of the news of Anthony Davis asking for the trade requests request out of New Orleans that’s brought up the whole subject of small markets and their ability to maintain or retain their superstars. You guys have won and your honest answer to compile Yeah. And I just wonder in looking at this situation and he’s coming up he’s not that far away from it. When you see the Anthony Davis Davis situation what does that make you think?
Wes Edens: Yeah like you know obviously we’re very blessed that we didn’t draft you honest. He was there the year before we we took over the team and then he turned out to be who I think he’s the best player in the NBA. I really do think he deserves to be the MVP this year whether his plan. And you know I I my own view is that it’s not about the big market and small market for the most part. I think the players just want to win. And you know the NBA has such great recognition worldwide. It started when Kevin Durant got his giant shoe contract when he was in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City not a giant market and you can just see that you know people around the world and I see people around the world all the time who told me they watch the NBA and they may not wear it. No we’re Milwaukee is on the map but they know the Milwaukee Bucks because they know of Johnny’s right. And so I don’t think that there’s you know inferior opportunities for the players at all from a monetary standpoint. I personally think they’re all super competitive and they want to win. And so if you want to have the best environment keep these players there you have to have plan to have a winning team and that’s that’s what we do.
Ric Buchers: I would also think that with your background I mean if there’s one other element that’s attractive that we’re seeing with superstar players now is that they want to they want to get involved in business and investments and they want to do it before they retire. They want to do it while they’re hot which I think is very smart. I would think that you at least have the wherewithal to say to your harness Look I live in New York you don’t have to live in New York. And I can provide you with all the investment expertise that you might need and you can still play in Milwaukee.
Wes Edens: Yeah. You know what. We obviously there’s a lot of rules that govern what you can or can’t do for people so sort of direct investor thing. But I I tell these guys you know very openly that you know I’ll be the free guy there if they have questions about investment they’re looking at something you don’t happen to give them my you know free unbiased advice about what I think about it. You know they’ve got this relatively short window of really high earnings right and that probably constitutes 90 percent of what they expect to earn in a lifetime. And so making the most of their time on the court but also then really prepare themselves for a much longer time off the court is really really important. And I think you know the league is very focused on the players association with Michelle Roberts and those folks that are very focused on it in a very positive way. And I think there’s still there’s been great strides made the right direction but there’s a lot more that can be done in my opinion.
Ric Buchers: Also I just look at the history and as you said know this was drafted before you guys bought the team. I don’t know if you knew what you had in an asset in him when you bought the team. That was right on the on the cusp but the international players seem to have more of a tendency of. I’m glad to be in the NBA. I don’t like the Casals in Memphis. Tim Duncan while American Virgin Islands manage know Billy like you don’t see international players as eager to say I got to live in a particular place and I wonder whether you think about that. And that may work as an advantage for you in this situation.
Wes Edens: It’s funny I thought it had exactly this conversation with some of our guys. I think that yo0u also have to remember the lives that these guys lead is one where they’re always on the road. Right. So a great deal of their time is spent doing good and driving back and forth. The practice facility when they’re in town or two games and then being on the road and so where they choose to make their off season homes is maybe a different choice. But I think a place like Milwaukee, although yeah it’s a little cold in the wintertime, but you can get to your house to the arena in a matter of minutes. You don’t have the same kind of challenges you might have in a bigger city. So I think for a lot of players they view that very attractively. And the honest I know really does he loves being there with his family. He’s a big part of the community. You know I think it’s a it’s a real positive for him.
Ric Buchers: It’s also I didn’t realize how close to Lake you guys are. I don’t know how many people do. Like I was I went out to think George Karl was with the team. The first time I went out there and either he took me for a drive or going to his house or whatever it was and I was like Whoa. It was summertime. Yeah. And it was like this is not a side of Milwaukee I’ve ever seen before like is there any compulsion to advertise more of that or kind of you know do a little chamber of commerce work because it caught me by surprise.
Wes Edens: You know in the summer fast which is our big music festival I think might be the biggest outdoor music festival in the country it’s an incredible thing that the people come from all over all over the country all over the world to go to the lake is right there on the lake during the summer months is amazing. Lake in the winter months is a little bit cold. You know we looked at the way we looked at all the different possible sites where we could have put a building and one of them was down there by the lakefront really. And we are there on a beautiful fall afternoon and with you know of course a real estate agent telling us the extolling the virtues like I’m not sure this is where we want to be in the middle of February or so. But it’s not for that I think Milwaukee is a really underrated town. It’s a real foodie town. You know it’s it’s got a lot of you know history to it you know and it’s a it’s a cool place.
Ric Buchers: I grew up in Cincinnati so I’ve long said you know it’s a great place to grow up. Great place to settle down. You should be forced to leave for a while. Like for at least two or three years just to know that there’s someplace else. But in the same way culturally you know Mark Twain said when the world comes to an end I want to be in Cincinnati because it won’t and it won’t hit there till 20 years later and it still holds some of that but culturally it is a it’s a really nice place that people I don’t think are aware of and I feel like Milwaukee has some of that. That same aspect.
Wes Edens: Yeah I think we are. So we are very focused on keeping the arena downtown and really rebuilding doing our part to rebuild downtown. And I don’t know if you had a chance to come but it’s…
Ric Buchers: I’ve not been in the new building yet.
Wes Edens: The new building is immodestly it’s amazing. It’s a it’s an incredible building we’re so proud of. Kind of what has been built there and you can see what’s being built now around it and it’s only going to accelerate we really want it to be here the best place for people to live work play in Milwaukee and I think it’s well in the way of that and it’s really following the pattern you see in lots of you know Midwestern cities where there’s kind of regenerating these downtowns and I think this would be a really cool spot.
Ric Buchers: How much has L.A. Live inspired so many of these Scituate. You know I mean they’ve created an oasis in downtown that was previously a wasteland. Yeah that is fully contained and I see so many other places that people are doing the same thing.
Wes Edens: Yeah I think that there has to be a first always and I think that may well have been the first because that was not a really great part of L.A.. Right now it’s an incredible spot and a good example of what an arena can do to really anchor an entertainment district. We went around to we’re looking at different models for what we want to accomplish. Columbus Ohio has done a really good job in downtown. And if you’ve been to their thing with the organized what it’s actually a terrific example of exactly the stuff that’s been developed around the baseball park in St. Lewis and now in Atlanta there’s lots of examples of this now. But I think that it really did start in L.A..
Ric Buchers: How do you feel about kind of shifting back to the small market and the superstars. You mentioned that winning cures a lot and can be the great antidote to everything the league has tried to put some advantages financial advantages to balance it to give the small markets a chance which has essentially not worked. Is there anything else that you would like to see or you could see the league doing that would balance the scales or give markets like I mean let’s face it I mean winning certainly cures it? Not everybody can do it on a timeline depending on where they are to satisfy a superstar and even that might not be enough.
Wes Edens: Yeah and I think it’s a great question. I think the league is very focused on it and they recognize that the value of the product is much greater if you have a competitive league. So there’s other leagues I want I won’t pick on anybody but there’s other leagues whether you have become more coastal or there’s a couple of examples of really great you know franchises in different parts than other parts of league not so competitive. I think the NBA doesn’t have a lot of that and I think for the most part it’s a pretty competitive imbalanced league. It’s hard though when you know the one of the reasons there’s been so few. It’s a little diversity in champions though is that your best players on the court for most of the game you think about in football. Tom Brady is an amazing quarterback. He’s going to play half to have the players. LeBron James has been an eighth straight finals. He’s out there during the finals for 92 percent of the minutes or whatever it is right. So you have to be blessed to have that superstar and then you have to have made the right organizational choices to be able to support the crew around them.
Ric Buchers: It’s also with small markets as I see it. Financially you’re usually a little more hamstrung when it comes to financial mistakes like if you’re in a big market. If you’re in New York you’re in L.A. you can kind of swing and miss a couple of times in and eat it and still be OK. It’s harder to finance that in the smaller markets is it not?
Wes Edens: I think it is. I think that’s definitely true. I mean when you look at the I haven’t done the study on this would be an interesting one. But if you look last you know five or 10 years. The bulk of the teams that are the final four playing are in the luxury game. Right. So whether it’s a big market or a small market when you have that moment when you think you can win you have to be willing to invest in it. It’s just that simple now. And you know maybe that’s that moment for us. So we’ll we’ll find out.
Ric Buchers: It’s just looking at small markets over the last 20 years. There’s only two that have won championships. Cleveland. And you know that one they kind of backed into and San Antonio which had had a great run but some sort of an outlier. When you look at that and you have the aspiration of the Milwaukee Bucks being the next small market to win a championship How do you get there. Like what. What do you see as the path?
Wes Edens: Well I did, take San Antonio. We think that that’s a real model for what you want and I believe it has everything to do with you know the organization that you put in place and the people you hire to kind of run those key parts the organization. You know San Antonio is blessed because they’ve got an incredibly talented general manager an incredibly talented coach and coaching staff and they seem to work seamlessly together. I’m sure like all things if you get behind the scenes there’s probably lots of friction and things I don’t see but you can see what the results are what they’ve had a tremendous amount of consistency for a long period of time with very talented people kind of running that. And you know of all the things that we’ve done in Milwaukee since I’ve been involved in last five years what I’m most proud of honestly is you know the people that we have now put in place to run the place. Right. So you know Peter was there from day one on the business side with who hired John Horst who was the youngest Yogi in the league. He’s done a tremendous job. And then you know maybe the the best trade of the offseason was bringing in you know coach Bud and then his staff because his staff is very talented and they’ve done a tremendous job and you can really see how well they operate together. And it’s easy to say when you’re 29 games above 500 and you can point it out but I but I actually think that there’s there’s a real there’s a real cause and effect there.
Ric Buchers: Right. Are there other than San Antonio is there anybody else that you’ve studied as a blueprint to say you know I really admire what they’ve done or there they’re small market success can be replicated in our market.
Wes Edens: I think Indiana has done a tremendous job right now. I think Oklahoma City is doing a tremendous job right now. I think that those are also look look at the tremendous fan bases that they have in those regions right. They’ve done a great job with that. The ownership in both those places has done a great job. They’ve got superstars on their you know unfortunate Indiana had you know the injury to Victor because he’s such a talented player there’s still a heck of a team they gave us really a tough game the other night and so they’re still very competitive. But I think that there have been other examples but I think it has a lot to do with organization consistency and then just real excellence of the people that really make those places work.
Ric Buchers: So those teams are all competitive and I can see this this is the distinction and I’ve kind of made this like for small markets to build a consistently winning team is certainly something that is realistic to aspire to and you should be able to get there if you’re smart about it. Climbing the mountain all the way to the top not to use a reference that you can probably relate to that is like that’s the missing integer that I think is is cracking the code essentially. Like how do you get that last 30 feet to the summit?
Wes Edens: There’s a little bit of luck involved right. That’s who you want to talk about I mean you know Johnny’s you know whatever 14 teams passed on him right. Sam and quite Len are the two best 15th round picks of all time right. So again easy to say in hindsight but you know you you need to have and the I don’t believe that there is for the most part a quick fix to the NBA. I think if you have a franchise and you want it to do well you really need to plan for the long term enough to build the draft do it organically maybe then get really lucky by finding some pieces you know in the rough or things that really work well together and that’s what we’ve had this year. You know knock wood and so but I think it really comes from taking a long term view and being really discipline and sticking to it and then getting a little lucky.
Ric Buchers: The other part and speaking to the lock which is health and I had this conversation with Sam precis GM of the of the thunder and their view of it is like let us just stay in. I think Portland even kind of is as has done the same thing let us just stay competitive year in and year out like keep us in the mix. We may not be the favorite. We may not be top five but you never know when an injury is going to happen and the door is going to open and you have like a Dallas walking through it. Or you know where circumstance you are prepared. The opportunity presented itself and you were good enough to go through it even if that you weren’t necessarily the best you basically an opportunist which again now that I think about it and just processing this as we do the podcast. It’s kind of your M.O Like I’m going to look for the quirky opportunity and wait until the time is ripe and then it’s going to unfold for me. And maybe that’s what we’re looking at with with the bucks.
Wes Edens: Yeah. You know success is the residue of design and hard work. Right. So do the hard work you know make good decisions hire the right people. Yeah put those right people on the court and then have a little good fortune. I mean you couldn’t have guessed you know the intangible impacts that that a player like honest would have. Right. And I intangibles being he is his competitive spirit is second to none. And that has an impact throughout the entire organization certainly to his teammates but everywhere else. And that’s just good fortune on our part to have ended up with that and then our job then is to make the most of that.
Ric Buchers: You you also are part owner in Aston Villa. Yeah. English Premier League team. Do you borrow your experience from the two the NBA franchise and the and the European soccer club is there is there carryover? What are the similarities and differences there and work in those two?
Wes Edens: I think that there is more similarities there are differences. I think that you have you know the names are different so rather than a GM you have a sporting director and rather than a coach you have a manager.
Ric Buchers: You ever find yourself like having to get yourself in the right lexicon when you’re talking to somebody.
Wes Edens: There is definitely in many ways, there’s the American English translation that you need at times but. But I think that I think that the seeds of success are the same the structures are the same. What is really different though is that even more so than the NBA talent is so worldwide distributed. I mean there’s their soccer players talented soccer players everywhere. There’s leagues everywhere and there’s huge discrepancies I think an absolute value and players in different levels and so we obviously scout extensively in Europe and the NBA. And it’s been very successful. So when you look at the incredible talent that come out of there. But I think in the in football and soccer that’s even more of a requirement. And it’s something we have to make a big investment into. You Well we when we brought John horse in to be our GM I said John I want to be a data driven organization. I want to make good judgments at the end but I want to make them. You know I always tell people in our businesses great judgment overrated great information underrated [Yeah]. Because truly if you have great information most of the decisions are pretty darn simple. Yeah and so I feel like in soccer they’ve got a long way to go in terms of analytics data. And so I feel like there’s a lot to be caught up to honestly and I’ve been I believe in the end when there’s look there’s a number of NBA owners and U.S. sports owners that have done tremendously well. You stand cranky at Arsenal John Henry Liverpool obviously they’ve got tremendous teams though and I’ve talked to both of them and others about their experiences. And I think that there are a lot more similarities than differences but there are some big differences for sure.
Ric Buchers: Well and it’s interesting when it comes to the analytics and it comes to owners because I’ve heard this complaint from basketball people which is like there’s too much reliance on the numbers whether it takes the soul of the game or it misses some sort of element the human element that has to be factored in you as somebody who who kind of flies around and watches games and I don’t know if a basketball junkie is an appropriate term the to have a passion for the game but also come from an analytics aspect. Like how do you. What do you make of that argument from the from the basketball people that you know what there are too many owners that are just numbers driven and it’s and it’s we’re missing something and doing that?
Wes Edens: Yeah it’s a balance. Look I I am a basketball junkie and I love the game as a fan and I’m now much more informed fan than I was five years ago or I was a big nerd Knicks fan enough before we invested in the Bucks and so I watched a lot of basketball and I thought I was a knowledgeable fan and I might have been knowledgeable on that level. But once you become an owner you see how little you really get access to. As a fan but but I think that it’s not to say that good judgment basketball judgment like we have you know Rod Thorn is an adviser of ours Rogers when the Hall of Fame and deservedly so. He’s been around forever done everything and his judgment is tremendously valuable right. And so it’s not it’s not merely the data but I do think the foundation of it should be data driven and I think that that’s where we talk about underdogs and whatnot. It’s just that I have this I have this very high motor to try to see things for what they are and that’s what the data allows you to do if you just apply it properly. But then you need good judgment at the end of course. But you know if it’s if it’s it’s really you know balanced by this underpinning of data and information you’re just likely make much better decisions.
Ric Buchers: You ever playing cards with Rod.
Wes Edens: I have not played, I’ve followed golf with Rod.
Ric Buchers: OK, well OK.
Wes Edens: Rod is one of the world’s most competitive people. He is maybe the worst loser in any, any any golf course I’ve been.
Ric Buchers: I would love to play with cards too.
Wes Edens: That doesn’t shock me at all. We have a lot of fun.
Ric Buchers: All right. As we wrap this up, I’m just curious when you look at all of your investments and I would think, maybe apply this to non-financial, the greatest investment you ever made was blank?
Wes Edens: Yeah. An easy one. The best investment ever made was the Milwaukee Bucks, right. I mean it’s a deal we made the investment at a time when it was very clear to us to me that you know the media contract was just about ready to change. There’s a giant step number we paid the most money that was ever paid for an NBA franchise. People think that’s a joke but it was 550 million dollars.
Ric Buchers: It wasn’t an arena.
Wes Edens: And it wasn’t an arena, was a 550 million dollars you pay the highest price ever been paid. Then of course we had that distinction for about three weeks until I knew Steve Ballmer paid two billion dollars for the Clippers.
Ric Buchers: Which you are mad about.
Wes Edens: Wasn’t that mad about, but it was very clear. But I think you know from a financial standpoint obviously very good. The reason why it is, is like the joy that it brings every part of my life. So my my kids are very engaged in it. That’s a lot of fun. My friends are the fans get a lot of joy out of it. It’s just been you know really a joyous thing it’s obviously been a good investment. And we think it’s got a long ways to go it’s so interesting we were know today they had the announcement where the NBA was going to start a league in Africa. Yes. Right. We just had this African event which I spent, I spent a lot of time in Africa, I’ll be there in a couple weeks on business and so I think that’s great. And you can have such a huge impact in terms of you know you know changing people’s lives and giving access to it. So it’s, it’s a wonderful investment on many levels but it’s a it’s a good financial one. But a lot of fun as well.
Ric Buchers: I went to the first basketball without borders are [there go] in Africa which was phenomenal in terms of the facilities that they were working on or working with and having these NBA players come in there. But I’ll never forget walking in and I walked by, I walked into an empty gym. They were in a different gym and I looked up at the backboard, the glass backboard, and there was all these hand prints above the rim and I was like there was some kids must have climbed up there of and fooling around and then I saw the scrimmages and I was like Holy cow! Look, you know what is here and some of the stories and I don’t know how much you’ve experienced this or been made aware of it, but some of them are heartbreaking in that. As soon as someone demonstrates any sort of talent they then become somebody that everybody, not we, think of people coming on here they’re like they’ll kidnap somebody from the family and hold them hostage until they’re cut in on it. What deals that haven’t even happened yet. I mean it’s, it’s shocking what, what it is. And yet what it could be.
Wes Edens: Yeah, look I think sport can be such a unifying force. You know, it really can be and I think you know, so Africa with Adam said today there’s 35 players that are either born in Africa or that way they released one parent that was born there. So that’s almost 10 percent of league rights a huge portion of the league and growing and all you do is walk around the streets in Senegal or Cote d’Ivoire or Ghana and you see you know just the big you know athletic looking people walking around you know that the potential is there. So it’s, a it’s a great initiative on the part of the league. But I think the impact they can have in those communities and in those environments to create economic growth because not everyone’s going to grow up to be an NBA basketball player but just being exposed to it in a process you know getting an education all that kind of stuff is so positive. So it’s, it’s pretty exciting.
Ric Buchers: So we as we say goodbye here in Charlotte at the All-Star Game. Milwaukee is one of, I think, four new buildings that has yet to host it. Chicago, I believe, so to go to three because, Chicago will be next year. And I wanted to say somebody else had dibs on.
Wes Edens: I think it goes Chicago, Indiana. [Yes] Cleveland, OK I believe. [OK.] So as we run the Midwest that is always not good for us. But but I think we have the best building in the league and we deserve an all star game. And you know, I’m a big proponent of it. I think it should be in Milwaukee should be celebrated. I’d love to be the host and show you and everybody else around the city in the middle of February. But you know we all throw our hat in the ring for sure and I’m sure that at some point we’ll get it and it can’t happen soon enough as far as I’m concerned.
Ric Buchers: Fair enough. Well Wes thank you so much for taking the time. It’s been a real pleasure.
Wes Edens: Thank you so much.
Ric Buchers: All right. That does it for another episode of Bucher and friends. In our next podcast Ryan Hollins and I will look at the stretch run of the NBA season. Will the Lakers be in or out of the playoffs? And how much will that impact the Lakers ability to get a second star this summer. We’ll also dig into the story of disgraced referee Tim Donaghy that has resurfaced. Ryan played during Donohue’s time as a ref and we’ll get his take on what Donaghy was like and if he ever suspected he was up to something. And I’ll also share what I know from my referee contacts in the league not only about Donaghy but a few other referees that weren’t necessarily in favor. All that and more in the next podcast. Thanks for listening.
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