James Dinan

From Everything.Sucks

James Gerard Dinan (born 1959) is an American investor, hedge fund manager, philanthropist. He founded York Capital Management in 1991.

Dinan is the CEO and founder of York Capital Management. He has a degree in economics from Wharton and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Part of an article that talks about How a Pair of Hedge Fund Billionaires (included James Dinan) Bought the NBA’s Worst Team:

Can the discipline required to invest in distressed assets be applied to purchasing the ultimate trophy asset – a professional sports franchise? Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan found that it can, but only to a point, when they bought the NBA’s worst team.

In 2014, Lasry and Dinan joined a growing list of Wall Street financiers who have bought a professional sports team. They sought to turn around the struggling franchise, as their investment firms had done repeatedly with debt and equity investments.

The acquisition was a record amount paid for an NBA team. “At the time, the team was making about $10 million a year,” according to Lasry. They bought the Bucks for $550 million, more than 50-times the team’s income.

The massive purchase was remarkable given that the Bucks have only had two conference finals appearances on record, and in 1971 won the only championship in the team’s history.

“At the time when we bought the team, it was the worst team in the NBA,” Lasry said.

“People thought it was a negative, but we thought it was a real positive.” Lasry explained that being at the bottom of the league allowed the Bucks to get a high draft pick, which would allow the team to acquire a star around whom they could build. He also saw the business potential value of building a new arena in Milwaukee and growing the team’s fan base.

Sports are emotional for fans. Since most NBA franchise investors are also fans, they can lose sight of asset management fundamentals, Lasry and Dinan cautioned.

“The worst thing you can do is become emotionally involved with an investment,” Dinan said. This can make it difficult to determine the right time to sell, according to the pair.

Lasry explained that a friend recently helped him realize this issue, which took him by surprise. His friend asked him if he would sell the Bucks right as they were in the NBA finals, “because that would be a good time.” Lasry answered no, but acknowledged that “it’s an interesting way to look at it.”

What the hedge fund managers didn’t realize until they acquired the Bucks was that they aren’t truly owning the franchise, they said. Ultimately, when you buy a team, you are just owning them for a given period of time. “The real owners end up being the fans,” Lasry explained, “and you never would have thought that” when you buy a team.