The Milwaukee Bucks are on the verge of elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals. Entering Game 6 Saturday night against the Raptors (8:30 p.m. EST, TNT), they trail 3-2 after Friday night’s 105-99 loss in Game 5.
With that said, the Bucks have come a long way since owner Wes Edens purchased the team in 2014. The season before, the Bucks finished 15-67 and dead last in the Eastern Conference. Merely five years later, he possesses a franchise that earned a No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the entire postseason.
How did the hedge-fund investor accumulate his $1.65 billion of net worth over the last three decades? Let’s take a look.
1. He Got His Start at Lehman Brothers in 1987
After graduating from Oregon State with a degree in Finance and Business Administration in 1984, Edens got his start in investing at Lehman Brothers in 1987. According to Bloomberg, he served as Partner and Managing Director at Lehman Brothers from April 1987 to October 1993.
He fostered the firm through the Black Monday crash on Oct. 19, 1987 until CEO Richard Fuld transitioned it away from American Express into Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. in 1994.
After that, he moved onto BlackRock’s global investing firm called Blackrock Financial Management Inc. He was a Partner and Managing Director until May 1997.
“I left Lehman Brothers and went to Black Rock,” he said to the Jamaica Observer in Jan. 2017. “It was a small money management company at the time. That’s where I raised the first fund. We did well and those guys are still friends. After that I decided the next logical step would be to set up my own company.”
2. He Cofounded Fortress Investment Group in 1998 & Operates with over $40 Billion in Assets
The biggest driver of his fortune has been Fortress Investment Group, which he co-founded in 1998 alongside Rob Kauffman and Randal Nardone. Bloomberg lays out all of his responsibilities with the company.
Mr. Wesley Robert Edens, also known as Wes, is a Co-Founder of Fortress Investment Group LLC and has been its Private Equity Chief Investment Officer, Principal, President of Private Equity, Head of Private Equity and Co-Chairman since August 2009. He serves as a Co-Chief Executive Officer at the Fortress Investment Group since December 2017. Mr. Edens is responsible for private equity and publicly traded alternative investment businesses. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of New Fortress Energy LLC since August 6, 2018 and has been its Director since August 2018 and serves as its Chairman. He served as Chief Executive Officer at Fortress Investment Group LLC from April, 1998 to July 22, 2003.
According to Forbes in 2007, he was one of the top-500 wealthiest people in the world. He worked with partners to publicly offer Fortress at the time, which led to owning 72.8 million shares worth $2.2 billion. The company operates with over $40 billion per New York Business Journal.
Group sold minority interest to Japanese investment firm Nomura for $890 million last December; Edens has earned an additional $150 million in net cash payouts since 2005.
He is known for his unconventional investment practices. Per Alexandra Wolfe on the Wall Street Journal, he “likes a counterintuitive bet.”
He famously dove back into subprime lending in 2010, just a few years after the financial crisis. He and Fortress are now investing more than $3 billion to build a private passenger railroad in Florida at a time when self-driving cars are the vogue investment.
3. He Purchased the Bucks in 2014 Alongside Marc Lasry for $550 Million
In April 2014, Edens and Marc Lasry purchased the Milwaukee Bucks from former United States Senator Herb Kohl for $550 million. According to the New York Times, part of the deal was contingent on the two improving the basketball facilities for the franchise.
One thing the new owners have is money. They plan to spend at least $100 million to build a new sports arena in Milwaukee, according to the announcement on Wednesday.
Edens is not local to Wisconsin. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, he was born in Montana in 1961. The Milwaukee Business Journal writes that the franchise has had the fourth-highest value increase of the last five years, as it is valued currently at $1.35 billion.
“Having each built competitive teams in the business world, we will apply that same intensity and determination as owners of the Milwaukee Bucks,” Edens and Lasry said in a statement at the time of the purchase.
He also owns the English Premier League club Ashton Villa.
4. As of 2016, Edens’ Take-Home Pay was Estimated at $54 Million
The Milwaukee Business Journal reported in 2016 that Edens’ “take-home pay” was $54 million. The figure includes his total annual compensation, as well as dividends earned as a stockholder.
Fortress Investment’s reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission list Edens’ total compensation from the combination of his $200,000 salary, nearly $1.1 million in stock awards, an $11.6 million bonus and $478,493 in other compensation in 2015. The Times decided to add the much larger figure for dividends he received for the Fortress Investment shares he owns.
Edens held 63.3 million shares of the company’s stock as of its most recent proxy statement that was filed in April. Other Fortress shareholders also receive dividends.
5. His Daughter Mallory Wants to Eventually Buy the New York Knicks
Edens is gaining more press lately due to his daughter Mallory. The Princeton graduate represented the franchise at the 2014 NBA Lottery, and most recently went viral for the Pusha-T shirt she wore courtside that was widely seen as trolling Raptors superfan and rap star Drake.
She is very vocal about her desire to own an NBA team in the future. Specifically, she has her eyes on the Knicks, according to TMZ Sports.
“I want to buy the Knicks one day,” Edens said to Bleacher Report in Aug. 2017. “I don’t need to swap, my dad can keep the Bucks. I’ll take the Knicks, and I’ll see him in the Eastern Conference Finals.”
Bleacher Report expanded on how this was a pipedream due to the expensiveness of the New York franchise owned by James Dolan.
The Knicks were named Forbes’ most valuable franchise for the second year running in 2017 with a valuation of $3.3 billion. James Dolan has shown no willingness to sell the franchise, and Cablevision has a majority ownership stake in the New York Rangers and New York Liberty as well along with Madison Square Garden. It’s highly unlikely Dolan would look to unload those assets in the near future.
Edens’ message seems more about increased representation for women across sports. in general.
“I think women are hugely underrepresented in sports,” Edens said. “I think it’s not something we talk about enough. There are no female GMs. There’s one team president who’s a woman in the NBA. There are no female head coaches—hopefully Becky Hammon gets a head coaching job soon. But other than that…there’s never been a female commissioner in any of the four major American sports leagues.”