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Bucking for attention

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the Milwaukee Bucks, who are coming off a playoff appearance and debuting a brand new arena. Learn what it takes to run this franchise and other Wisconsin sports teams during this year’s IB Expo.

Alex Lasry isn’t much older than a lot of the players on the Milwaukee Bucks roster, but don’t let his age deceive you. The 31-year-old Bucks senior vice president has his hands in many facets of the NBA team’s business operation and he notes there are many similarities between running a pro sports team and working in the White House, which by the way, he’s also done.

Lasry was born and raised in New York City and he went to college at the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in political science. Following graduation, he worked at the White House for a couple years during President Obama’s administration as the deputy chief of staff to Valerie Jarrett, who served as a senior advisor to the president. He left his post at the White House to attend the NYU Stern School of Business, and fully intended to return to politics after he obtained his MBA, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“I grew up wanting, like most 10-year-old boys, to play in the NBA, and then when I realized I was going to stop growing at 5’8” that changed to wanting to work in the NBA,” recalls Lasry. “After my freshman year of college, I found other interests besides trying to work in sports. Politics and public service really became a passion of mine.

“This was what I wanted to do because I’ve been so blessed and lucky to be in the positions that I’m in and have the life that I was able to grow up with, that I always looked at giving back,” Lasry continues. “So after studying political science and then moving to D.C. to work at the White House, that was something that I wanted to continue doing. I thought post-business school that I would go back into government, whether it was local government or back on the federal side.

“However, when my dad [Marc Lasry, Bucks co-owner] bought the team and gave me the opportunity to come work out here, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Basketball was always my favorite sport — I grew up playing it, I still play it — so having that opportunity was something I felt like I had to jump at.”

Lasry is on the team’s management committee and he helps create, develop, and execute the strategy of the organization as a whole. He also worked on all of the Bucks’ work development efforts for the new Fiserv Forum, which included making sure the organization was hiring minority small businesses and women-owned businesses for the contractors for the arena, as well as making sure the organization hit its hiring goals. In addition, Lasry runs all of the Bucks’ digital marketing and helps out with the team’s ancillary development.

“It’s kind of a big pot of things but it’s been cool because I can keep my hands in a bunch of different sectors of the business,” says Lasry.

Lasry’s excitement over the team’s on-the-court potential is evident when he talks about the Bucks.

“I think we’re moving in the direction we want to be moving, which is up,” he says. If you’re not going forward you’re then going backward, especially in the NBA. We just got someone who I think is one of the top coaches in the NBA in Mike Budenholzer, we’ve got one of the best players in Giannis [Antetokounmpo], and then you look at Khris [Middleton], [Eric] Bledsoe, Malcolm [Brogdon], [Tony] Snell, Thon [Maker], and all of our guys coming back from last year, I think we’ve got a really good team. And then I think we’ve filled out our depth, which can make us a great team. From a basketball standpoint I couldn’t be more excited for this season and we should be knocking on the door.”

But his enthusiasm about the potential for the business side of the organization and its shining new crown jewel arena is just as high.

“When you look at the business side for what we’re doing with the Fiserv Forum and Milwaukee, it’s really impressive,” Lasry notes. “We’ve reached all of our hiring and minority, small business contracting goals for the arena, we’re developing 30 acres of previously undeveloped land right in the center of downtown, and we’ve got an arena that now is going to be hosting some of the biggest concerts, which were previously skipping Milwaukee.

“We’re starting to revitalize and reintroduce the city to the country, and everything that we are doing from a concert and event business and then also what we’re doing on the community side in trying to make Milwaukee a better city, I couldn’t be more proud of the direction that we’re going. There’s only room for us to grow.”

Business of sports

Lasry will be joined by several other Wisconsin sports leaders to discuss the business side of our favorite teams and sporting events during the eighth annual IB Expo & Conference, Oct. 24 at the Alliant Energy Center.

In a special panel discussion moderated by Matt Lepay, “The Voice of the Wisconsin Badgers,” attendees to this event will have the opportunity to discover the challenges and opportunities facing Wisconsin sports.

Alongside Lasry will be Barry Alvarez, director of athletics, University of Wisconsin; Jason Hartlund, chief revenue officer, Milwaukee Brewers; and Dirk Willis, PGA, general manager and group director of golf for the Kohler Company, who is leading preparations for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

The Business of Wisconsin Sports panel costs just $30 per person and a lunch buffet is included. Reservations can be made online at MadisonBusinessExpo.com.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.

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