Private Equity

Sorry Milwaukee Bucks fans: Private equity owners aren't much help

April 16, 2014: 1:35 PM ET

The Milwaukee Bucks are getting new owners, but history isn't on their side.

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FORTUNE -- This has been a trying season for fans of the Milwaukee Bucks, which tonight will close out a season in which it lost more than four times as many games as it won.  Now things are getting even worse, with news that the team will be sold to a pair of private equity professionals: Wes Edens of Fortress Investment Group (FIG) and Marc Lasry of Avenue Capital.

Don't get me wrong: Both Edens and Lasry have outstanding records as investors, and I have nothing against either one of them personally. But the reality is that private equity professionals have a pretty lousy record so far as owners of NBA franchises. And I mean "record" literally.

The Bucks would become the fifth franchise (out of 30) to be owned by individual private equity or venture capital investors. The others are the :

  • Boston Celtics: Acquired for $380 million in 2002 by a group led by Steve Pagliuca (Bain Capital) and Wyc Grousbeck (Highland Capital Partners). Minority partners on that deal included Glenn Hutchins (Silver Lake Partners), Michael Marks (Riverwood Capital), hedge fund manager Jim Pallotta, David Bonderman (TPG Capital) and Jim Breyer (Accel Partners).
  • Detroit Pistons: Purchased in 2011 for $325 million by Tom Gores and his private equity firm Platinum Equity.
  • Golden State Warriors: Purchased in 2010 for $450 million by an investor group led by venture capitalist Joe Lacob (ex-Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers).
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Purchased in 2011 for $280 million by Apollo Global Management (APO) co-founder Josh Harris. His partners on the deal include David Blitzer of The Blackstone Group (BX) and hedge fund manager Art Wrubel.

Since each of those franchises was acquired by their respective owners, they have a combined regular season record of 787-816. And, for context, that 49% winning percentage is a scant three points higher than the combined franchises' winning percentage for the five years before being purchased by private equity investors.

RELATED: Marc Lasry's troubled path to Paris

Only one of them has won a championship (the Celtics in 2008), while only the Warriors will even make the playoffs this year (the other three are draft lottery bound). And none of this addresses the usually-woeful Toronto Raptors, which until 2012 were majority owned by the private equity arm of a public pension system in Canada.

The good news for Bucks fans is that things probably can't get much worse. The bad news is that history doesn't suggest things will get much better.

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