Cleveland Browns Owners Agree to Buy a Share of the N.B.A.’s Bucks

Marc Lasry, a co-owner of the N.B.A.’s Milwaukee Bucks, has reached an agreement to sell his share of the team to Jimmy and Dee Haslam, who own the N.F.L.’s Cleveland Browns, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The transaction values the Bucks at $3.5 billion. Spokesmen for the Browns and the Bucks declined to comment.

Lasry purchased the team in 2014 for $550 million along with Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan, with each purchasing an equal share of the organization.

Lasry is currently the team’s governor, which is the top decision-making position in an N.B.A. organization. He and Edens alternate in the role, and the Haslams will have the same arrangement within the ownership group, the person familiar with the deal said.

Lasry helped preside over one of the most successful eras for the franchise, in part because of the transcendent talent of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was drafted in 2013.

Antetokounmpo won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2019 and 2020. He led the Bucks to an N.B.A. championship in 2021, the second in Bucks history. Their first came in 1971.

The Haslams have had less success in the N.F.L. The Browns have had a winning record only once since the Haslams purchased the team in 2012, and went winless in 2017.

In 2022, the Haslams traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson and awarded him a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract after more than two dozen women accused Watson of sexual misconduct during massage appointments. The Haslams and the Browns came under scrutiny for not talking to any of Watson’s accusers or their lawyers before making the trade, after which three new lawsuits were filed against him.

Watson has denied the accusations against him. Two Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal charges, and Watson settled 23 of the 26 lawsuits filed against him (one case was withdrawn for privacy reasons).

The Haslams’ deal to purchase a share of the Bucks would expand their sports holdings into a third American sports league. In addition to the Browns, the Haslams also own the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer. The Haslams’ ownership group took over the soccer team in 2019, keeping it in Ohio after its previous owner had threatened to move the team to Texas.

Before the sale of the Bucks becomes official, the N.B.A. will complete a background check on the Haslams. Then the league’s board of governors will vote on whether to approve the sale. Once the league has approved a buyer, the board’s vote is considered a formality.

The agreement between Lasry and the Haslams comes two months after Mat Ishbia reached an agreement to purchase a majority share of the Phoenix Suns. Ishbia purchased 57 percent of the Suns, which were valued at $4 billion as part of that deal. His purchase included the entire portion that had belonged to Robert Sarver. Sarver decided to sell the team under pressure after an N.B.A. investigation found that he had engaged in pervasive misconduct while owning the organization, including using racial slurs against Black people and treating female employees unfairly.

Ishbia was approved by the board of governors with a 29-to-0 vote; the Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, Isbhia’s rival in the mortgage business, abstained.

If approved, the Haslams would join a small group of billionaires with major ownership stakes in both the N.B.A. and the N.F.L. Jodie Allen is the controlling owner of the N.F.L.’s Seattle Seahawks and the N.B.A.’s Portland Trail Blazers. Gayle Benson owns the N.F.L. and N.B.A. teams in New Orleans. Stan Kroenke’s holdings include the N.F.L.’s Los Angeles Rams and the N.B.A.’s Denver Nuggets.

Andrew Das contributed reporting.

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