• Loading stock data...
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Herb Kohl, Who Kept Milwaukee on the Sports Map, Dies at 88

  • Herb Kohl owned the Milwaukee Bucks from 1985 to 2014.
  • He also served as a U.S. senator for much of his ownership tenure.
MICHAEL SEARS/MSEARS@JOURNALSENTINEL.COM

The sports world lost one of its most impactful team owners on Wednesday when Herb Kohl, who owned the Milwaukee Bucks from 1985 to 2014, died at the age of 88.

Kohl, a native of Milwaukee’s north side, was also a U.S. senator, representing Wisconsin in office from 1989 to 2013, and his family founded a chain of Kohl’s department stores and supermarkets. (Kohl’s, at one point this century, was the largest department store chain in the U.S.) But while his impact across American society is widespread, his influence on pro sports in his hometown cannot be understated.

Kohl purchased the Bucks for $18 million in 1985 and his tenure was mired mostly in mediocrity, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals twice and never advancing further. But he sealed his legacy in the Midwest upon his departure: When he sold the team to hedge fund managers Marc Lasry and Wes Edens in 2014 for $550 million, it was on the condition that they stay put, in one of the smallest pro sports markets. “His goal was to make sure … that the team stayed in Milwaukee,” Lasry told The Athletic. “That was the requisite for us owning the team.” Almost a decade later, the Bucks have a long-term lease at the $524 million Fiserv Forum, which Kohl helped fund, and which opened in 2018—and they’ve since delivered Milwaukee its second NBA championship (after a Lew Alcindor-led win in 1972).

Kohl’s life was otherwise filled with crazy could-have-beens and hard-to-believe happenstances around the business of sports. Among them:

  • In college, Kohl roomed with Bud Selig, who would go on to become MLB commissioner. 
  • Kohl helped bring the Brewers, formerly the Seattle Pilots, to Milwaukee in 1970, along with Selig.
  • Almost 20 years before he bought into the Bucks, Kohl turned down a chance to buy the expansion team for $2 million, in 1968.
  • In 2003, he nearly sold the Bucks to Michael Jordan for $170 million.

Kohl never married and had no children. He remained a Bucks season-ticket holder after selling the team, and he received a championship ring from their 2021 title. He also donated $25 million to the University of Wisconsin in 1995 for construction of the 15,000-seat Kohl Center, which houses Badgers basketball, among other sports.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

NFLPA Report Cards: Dolphins Best, Commanders Worst

The NFLPA released its second annual team report cards.

Falcons Getting Grass for 2026 World Cup—but Football Ruled Out

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium will install grass for those soccer games to meet FIFA rules
Charlotte Hornets

Hornets Prepared to Pay Beyond City’s $30M for New Practice Facility

New ownership continues to spend money less than a year after buying the team from Michael Jordan.

DSG Takes Big Steps Toward Recovery, But Rights Questions Remain

Bankruptcy court approves refinancing plan, settlement of legal dispute.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

MLB’s Media Mess

0:00
0:00

Featured Today

Oct 5, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, points to the lettering outside of the museum Tuesday.

How Do You Keep Negro Leagues Baseball History Alive? Put It in a Video Game

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum attracting increased donations, visits from ‘MLB The Show.’
February 26, 2024

The Victor Wembanyama Rookie Card Market Hasn’t Matched His Hype

A cooling market and Fanatics autograph deal leaves big-money collectors waiting.
February 25, 2024

Sham Gods: The Rapidly Growing World of Sports Impersonators on X

Fake Schefters and Wojs, fabricated trade demands, and borrowed profile pictures.
Sep 24, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of the Oakland Athletics dugout after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
February 24, 2024

Murky Future: Everything You Need to Know About the A’s Move to Las Vegas

Breaking down one of the most drawn-out, multifaceted sagas in sports.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Spotify
Multiple - USA Careers
Nike
Multiple - USA Careers
EA
Multiple - USA Careers
Carolina Panthers

For Panthers, the Cost of a Two-Win Season Is a 4% Ticket Hike

Lower-level tickets are going up an average of 7%.
February 26, 2024

What Is a Clipper? Behind the Scenes of an NBA Rebrand

The NBA team is leaning into its nautical heritage.
February 26, 2024

Trouble in Winnipeg As Bettman Plans Visit for Ailing Jets

NHL commissioner set to meet with local politicians, sponsors, and fans.
Sponsored

How Sportradar and the NBA are Partnering to Fuel Fan Engagement

How Sportradar and the NBA are utilizing data to enhance fan engagement
Matt Araiza
February 22, 2024

Chiefs Sign Matt Araiza, Former Bills Punter Dismissed for Now-Dropped Rape Allegations

Rape allegations against the punter were dropped in December.
February 20, 2024

An About-Face in D.C. As Lerners Pull Nationals From the Market

MLB club no longer for sale as ownership family changes course.
Phoenix Suns
February 15, 2024

Suns Last NBA Team To Add a G League Squad

Mat Ishbia made his latest move a year into owning the Suns.
February 13, 2024

Royals Trust Owner’s ‘Gut,’ Commit to Downtown K.C. Site for New Stadium

MLB club targets late-emerging location near downtown for ballpark development.