Herb Kohl, former NBA team owner and US senator, dead at 88

Herb Kohl, a former U.S. senator and former owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, has died, his philanthropic company announced Wednesday. He was 88.

Kohl was a Democrat senator from Wisconsin and served in office from 1989 to 2013. He purchased the Bucks in 1985 for $18 million and sold it in 2014 to Wes Edens and Marc Lasry for $550 million.

“More than anything, Herb loved Milwaukee and Wisconsin, and that is where he chose to live out his days,” Herb Khol Philanthropies said in a statement. “He touched an incalculable number of lives, and those who love him would remark that he is among the most decent people to ever walk the earth.”


As owner of the Bucks, Kohl oversaw several playoff teams, but the organization never got to taste the NBA Finals. NBA greats like Vin Baker, Ray Allen, Michael Redd, Gary Payton and Andrew Bogut played during Kohl’s era.

Kohl got into politics in the 1970s when he served as the chair of the state Democratic Party from 1975 to 1977. He was the chair of the Special Committee on Aging and was the vice chairman on the Committee on the Judiciary. He won four elections during his career as a politician.

“Sen. Kohl was deeply committed to community, kindness, and service to others,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement. “Wisconsin’s seniors, students, teachers, and schools, and farmers and rural areas, among so many others, are better off because of his life and legacy, the impacts of which will last for generations.”


Kohl donated $25 million to the University of Wisconsin to help fund the construction of the Kohl Center and also used his own fortune to fund the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.

Kohl never married and said that being single was his way of making sure he stayed committed to the demands of the U.S. Senate office and being the Bucks owner.

“Senator Kohl was a dear friend and one of our very best public servants,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “In addition to his decades of devoted service in the U.S. Senate, he set the standard for NBA team ownership as the governor of his hometown Milwaukee Bucks for nearly 30 years.”

“Through his purchase of the team, Senator Kohl ensured that the Bucks would stay in Milwaukee and remain an important pillar of the community. There was never any doubt about his extraordinary commitment to the franchise and city that he loved, and his vision and unparalleled financial contribution towards a new arena in Milwaukee will forever be remembered. … He will be deeply missed by his NBA family.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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