Giannis joins Brewers ownership group

'Dream come true' for the NBA star, who loves Milwaukee and wants to give back

August 21st, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- And you thought Willy Adames was the Brewers’ biggest acquisition in May?

Turns out, the club had an even bigger deal brewing.

Besides picking up Adames, the shortstop who has transformed the team’s fortunes on the field, May was the month in which the Brewers made a deal with their first new individual investor since the club passed from Bud Selig’s family to financier Mark Attanasio in 2004. Giannis Antetokounmpo grew up selling toys and trinkets with his brother on the streets in Greece to help feed his family, but now can call himself a superstar athlete, NBA champion and Major League Baseball owner.

The Brewers revealed on Friday that Antetokounmpo had purchased an undisclosed stake in the club, having waited three months since the transaction was approved by MLB to avoid distracting from the Milwaukee Bucks’ run to their first title in 50 years. Antetokounmpo joins a list of prominent superstars from other sports to invest in an MLB franchise, including Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the Royals, Lakers star LeBron James in the Red Sox via Fenway Sports Group, and NBA legends Magic Johnson in the Dodgers and Michael Jordan in the Marlins.

And Antetokounmpo is the latest Wisconsin athlete to invest in one of Milwaukee’s franchises. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a minority owner of the Bucks, and back in 2005, Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets invested in the Milwaukee Admirals, the city’s professional hockey team.

“This is a dream come true for a kid from Sepolia, Athens, Greece, born from immigrant parents,” Antetokounmpo said. “I could have never imagined I would be in this position.”

Antetokounmpo began to imagine it about a year ago in the NBA’s 2020 pandemic bubble, when he instructed his representatives to reach out to the Brewers to pitch in an investment in a group that had remained essentially the same since Attanasio reached an agreement to buy the franchise from founder Selig and his family in the fall of 2004.

The following January, a group of investors with Attanasio as chairman and principal owner was formally approved. Until now, no individuals had joined the group since then.

“Privately, we all knew we had joining our group not only a wonderful human being, a leader, family person and community leader, but also a world champion,” Attanasio said. “That’s some of the karma we’re trying to have rub off on the Milwaukee Brewers.”

Said Antetokounmpo: “As Mark’s said, it’s been 17 years since a private investor joined the group. He told me outside, ‘Don’t be that trouble investor because every ownership group has one.’ I’m going to try not to be that one. I’m here to learn. I’m here to observe.”

How much does he know about baseball?

“I can tell you when I was introduced to baseball,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was 18. It was the first day I came to Milwaukee. I came to a game. But I know Christian Yelich. I know he’s a great player. He has a little bit of pressure on him now, to bring a championship to this organization. I’m going to text him every day from now on.”

Yelich welcomed Antetokounmpo via a video message. The two have been mutual admirers for years, meeting from time to time when Yelich sat courtside at Bucks games. Yelich was courtside for Game 6 of the NBA Finals, when Giannis scored a playoff career-high 50 points in a 105-98 win over the Phoenix Suns to clinch the Bucks’ first championship since the 1970-71 season. A group of more than 20 other Brewers players watched from a suite.

Little did they know, they were watching their boss.

Not even manager Craig Counsell knew of Giannis’ investment before Friday.

“For my age, I think I’m pretty sharp and I think a lot of it helped put me in position where I can think about things, think about the future and where I want to be in the future, and what I want to do,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was just thinking about that, wanting to become an owner of a professional team. There was a lot of ideas on the table. There was an idea to own a soccer team in Europe, and I said, ‘No, I want to be a part of the Milwaukee Brewers if that’s possible.’

“At first they told me that they haven’t allowed anybody for 17 years to be in that ownership group, and I was like, ‘Does it really matter?’ Can we still reach out to them and see what they think, if they’d be interested in me joining them and me learning from them?’ At the end of the day, I’m 26 years old. I’m learning, and learning from Mark is going to be big for me because, as I said, this is what I want to do next.”

And this is where he wanted to do it.

“I just love Milwaukee,” Antetokounmpo said. “They found a diamond in the rough, in the dust. They believed in me, they trusted me, they embraced me. The city has loved me and my family and I want to give that love back now.

“After the championship, we had two days and then we had the parade. When I was on the bus, I was extremely quiet. It was me, my mother, my son and my significant other, Mariah. I saw 200,000 people in Milwaukee who were all happy at the same time. It didn't matter what color, black or white, everybody was happy at the same time. I loved it and that's when I realized there was more.”