For the first time since 1971, the Milwaukee Bucks have won the NBA Finals, and in doing so, two Penn alumni and a significant Penn donor earned championship rings.
In 2014, a group of four investors formed an ownership group that purchased the Bucks from then-owner Herb Kohl for $550 million, and the group of people that own the team has largely stayed the same in the proceeding years.
Among the Bucks’ four current majority owners are Jamie Dinan, who earned a B.S. from Wharton in 1981 with a degree in economics, and Marc Lasry, who is listed by Penn Arts and Sciences as having “established two professorships to support faculty.”
In addition to the two owners, Lasry’s son Alex Lasry, who graduated from Penn in 2009 with a B.A. in political science and government, currently acts as the team’s senior vice president, a position he’s held since 2016.
The Bucks won the NBA Championship on Tuesday night after defeating the Phoenix Suns in a six-game series. The victory came after a strenuous postseason in which they went to seven games with the Kevin Durant-led Brooklyn Nets and six games with the Trae Young-starring Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks were guided by two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, who put up 50 points in the team’s final game and won NBA Finals MVP for his performance throughout the series.
After graduating from Penn, Dinan went on to earn his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1985 and found York Capital Management in September of 1991.
Dinan, who is still the firm’s chairman, CEO, and a managing partner, is listed by Forbes as being worth $1.9 billion, as his firm reportedly held $19 billion of assets under management as of July 2019.
Though he graduated from Penn 40 years ago, Dinan still remains involved with the school. He currently sits on the school’s Board of Trustees in addition to the Wharton Board of Overseers.
Similar to Dinan, Marc Lasry made his fortune in investing, having founded Avenue Capital Management with his sister Sonia in 1995. According to Forbes, his net worth is valued at $1.8 billion, with his firm managing roughly $10 billion dollars in assets, much of which comes from “distressed and undervalued securities.”
Although he didn’t graduate from Penn, Lasry has managed to make a sizable impact on the University. He and his wife Cathy Lasry established professorships for both Vijay Balasubramanian and Tukufu Zuberi. Balasubramanian does research focused on “basic questions concerning the nature of space and time,” in addition to “string theory, particle physics, high energy physics, and neuroscience.” Zuberi, on the other hand, is a professor of sociology and Africana studies, with research focusing “on race and African and African Diaspora populations.”
Both Marc and Cathy Lasry also previously acted as joint chairs of the Penn Parent Leadership Committee, and Cathy Lasry served as a member of the Board of Advisors at Penn Arts and Sciences.
While much less tied to Penn than two of the other owners, Mike Fascitelli, another Bucks’ majority owner, was one of three participants in a Wharton 2020 Summer Lecture Series program entitled “Investing Amidst the COVID Crisis.”
After graduating from Penn and the New York University Stern School of Business, Alex Lasry spent two years as the Bucks’ vice president of strategy and operations before being promoted to senior vice president in August of 2016.
Since his promotion, the Bucks have yet to miss the playoffs in a single season and, since his hiring, have seen their value more than double in worth.
In addition to his duties as senior vice president, Lasry is currently running for a United States Senate position in Wisconsin as a Democrat. The Senate election will occur in 2022, as Lasry will have to wade through a dense field of Democratic and Republican challengers to win the nomination.
Although Penn may not have been very prevalent on the court in this (or any recent) NBA Finals, its representation amongst the winning team’s front office certainly counts for something.