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Sports owners have 'moral responsibility' to communities: Lasry, Harris

Marc Lasry
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Marc Lasry

Billionaire investors Marc Lasry and Josh Harris are known for finding undervalued companies and securities and extracting profit from them, sometimes quickly.

But they have a message for potentially nervous fans of the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils: Their ownership is no strip and flip play.

"We have a moral responsibility to the community," Avenue Capital co-founder Lasry said Thursday at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in New York City. "We clearly have an obligation."

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Hedge funder Lasry bought the Bucks with Fortress Investment Group executive Wesley Edens for $550 million in April. The pair said they would keep the team in Milwaukee and help finance a new arena.

Lasry hinted that he was not looking to make a quick profit off the Bucks.

"At the end of the day, these franchises, whether it's basketball or baseball, don't really trade that often," Lasry said when asked about the valuations of sports franchises. "Nobody's looking at this thinking 'we need to get out in five years'….When you invest, it's for 20 years, it's over a very long time."

Harris, co-founder of private equity giant Apollo Management, echoed the sentiment.

"It's a public trust," Harris said of owning and investing in the 76ers and Devils.

"For me it's not about reading it in the press. It's about doing the right thing to build a high-quality organization up and down to attract the right people," Harris added. "It's like every other business, you need the right people. In order to do that, you have to have very high-quality facilities, you have to do everything in an A-plus manner, you have to have the right management, the right coaches, the right culture."

The 76ers recently announced that they would build a major new practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, with the help of tax subsidies.

"You have to think about the financial returns over a longer run basis versus saying 'OK, we put $60 million in, are we going to make $10 million more?'" Harris said. "You don't know. You're not. Not tomorrow."

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Harris led a group that bought the 76ers in 2011 for $287 million. In 2013, he similarly helped a group buy the Devils and their Newark arena for $320 million.

By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne

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