Local business executive Cory Nettles joins the Bucks

October 16, 2015
Cory Nettles

Founder and Managing Director of Generation Growth Capital, Inc. Cory L. Nettles is pictured in his Milwaukee office behind an enormous desk filled with bids,books, building code regulations, contracts and other correspondence. Generation Growth Capital, Inc. is a private equity fund focused on buyouts and providing growth capital to small businesses and lower-middle market companies in the upper Midwest. Mr. Nettles previously served as Secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. He currently serves as a board member for several corporate and nonprofit organizations, including Robert W. Baird, Inc. the United Way of Greater Milwaukee, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Teach For America, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. The framed photos on the wall are from downtown moveable bridge renovation projects recently completed in Milwaukee by companies now owned by Generation Capital. Other companies in which Mr. Nettles has an ownership stake include the Milwaukee Bucks.

Founder and Managing Director of Generation Growth Capital Inc. Cory L. Nettles believes in serendipity. So when he heard Wes Edens, one of the two principle owners of the Bucks, tell a corporate board on which Nettles sits that the team wanted to be a good steward of Milwaukee, he had an inspiration of becoming a minority owner. The idea first came to Nettles in 2007 shortly after Senator Herb Kohl had already agreed to sell the Bucks to New York-based Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, according to Nettles who said he attended a board meeting where Lasry spoke passionately about his desire for the Bucks to be a successful franchise while remaining in Milwaukee. Shortly after the meeting broke up Nettles was talking with another board member and friend, Atty. John Daniels. The two men agreed that they ought to create a group and put together a proposal.

“John and I thought it would be both symbolic and noteworthy if a group of African Americans were to do that,” he said. “We could have done it individually; we thought there might be some power in coming together as a group and doing it.” Nettles agreed to reach out to five other families and see if they would be interested. The group was named Partners for Community Impact. He approached five other African American families with connections to Milwaukee. All five said yes. The partnership consists of Cory and Michelle Nettles; Michael and Jackie Barber; Valerie Daniels Carter; Virgis and Angela Colbert; and Charles and Cheryl Hardy.

“Not all of them knew each other, but John and I had successful relationships with each of them,” Nettles said. “John did not participate personally because he was the chair of the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) and the GMC was very involved from a policy perspective in the whole conversation and John didn’t want anyone ever to suggest that he had a conflict of interest. His sister, Valerie, chose to invest, but he has no interest in the team.” Nettles said that the National Basketball Association has a very “extensive screening and vetting process for each individual who invests in the team and you don’t fully know what the standards and requirements are. They have both a net worth requirement and what I would describe as a character and fitness requirement.” Each individual had to apply and be vetted. “It’s a club,” Nettles said, “and I have known them to say no; not to anyone of our investors, but nationally. You must have both sufficient financial means and character as an individual, not as a group, because they are concerned about the brand, not only of your individual franchise, but also the NBA more broadly.” The NBA suffered through a period of embarrassing behavior by some owners.

One made racist comments and was forced to sell his franchise. Nettles said he spoke to the new commissioner and, to his credit, was extremely enthusiastic about minority ownership. Nettles said that the vetting process extended over several months and said that there were times it seemed as if he was handing over everything except his sixth-grade report card. “It was really rigorous,” he said.