Timberwolves and Lynx owner Glen Taylor told Sports Headliner that Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez met their December 31 deadline to exercise the option to acquire majority control of the franchises. He also offered an update on the widely publicized $1.5 billion sales price.
Payment must be made later this year by the two men to gain 80 percent control of Minnesota’s professional basketball teams. Rodriguez and Lore reportedly already hold a 40 percent ownership share. Taylor said the final payment will not be for several weeks at the soonest and “probably not after 120 days,” with more specifics to be determined.
Asked about the accuracy of the $1.5 billion price, Taylor said, “Sort of. Yeah, kind of, but we have to negotiate a few things.”
Taylor, a long-time friend of this writer, declined to provide further details. The plan is for him to become a 20 percent owner of the teams.
Taylor expressed confidence that efforts of Lore and Rodriguez to acquire investment partners are on track. He knows at least some names of potential owners.
All of those involved with the new ownership group must be investigated and vetted by the NBA. Until the league’s Board of Governors votes approval, Rodriquez, Lore and their partners will not have their 80 percent authority. Taylor isn’t aware of a date yet when the Board of Governors will hold their vote to approve or not approve new ownership.
Fans can raise questions about the future of the franchises and where they will play. Neither Lore nor Rodriguez has ties to Minnesota, and this will be their first venture into pro sports ownership.
Their payment plan for the Wolves and Lynx began in 2021 and is unconventional in that they have needed time to raise capital and take in partners. Will they have the money, and willingness, to make their teams competitive?
What’s interesting, too, is that Lore and Rodriguez are buying low on the $1.5 billion deal, or whatever the final number turns out to be. Since the time of their agreement with Taylor, other NBA franchises have sold for more than twice as much.
To their credit, Lore and Rodriguez pushed for the hiring of general manager Tim Connelly in May of 2022. The trades bringing high impact starters Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley Jr. to Minneapolis have been vital to the Wolves now being counted among the elite teams in the NBA this season.
The team payroll, already expensive, could easily go into luxury tax territory for the 2024-2025 season. The Wolves will reportedly pay their two big men, Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, over $90 million as they look at an expected NBA luxury tax threshold of perhaps $172 million for the entire team. If the Wolves earn a Western Conference title—or, gulp—an NBA championship, will ownership go beyond $172 million and pay the resulting financial penalty?
Such success followed by financial trimming would disappoint a fan base that has witnessed a lot of struggles in over 30 years of Wolves basketball. The team has never won a Western Conference title and advanced to the Finals. The Lynx, operating on a modest business model in the startup WNBA, have won four league titles since Taylor started the franchise in 1999 partially because he wanted to be supportive of women’s basketball. Many years he has operated both the Lynx and Wolves when they have lost money. He was instrumental in stepping forward in 1994 to end speculation the Wolves might relocate, buying the franchise from original owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner.
The Wolves are competing in a league with wealthy owners including Steve Ballmer from the Clippers, worth an estimated $100 billion-plus. Front Office Sports, working off data from Forbes, listed the 20 richest owners in American sports late last year. Included from the NBA were Dan Gilbert of the Cavs at $21.3 billion; Stan Kroenke, Nuggets, $14.6 billion; Jimmy Haslam, Bucks, $8.7 billion; Robert Pera, Grizzlies, $8.3 billion; Tom Gores, Pistons, $8.1 billion; Antony Resler, Hawks, $8.1 billion; Tilman Fertitta, Rockets, $8 billion. Lore’s estimated net worth is over $4 billion, with fellow businessman and ex-baseball star Rodriguez purportedly at $350 million.
And there is more money coming into the league. TV celebrity and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has sold the majority share of his franchise to casino magnate Miriam Adelson at a reported price of $3.5 billion. Cuban is on record about a future where he sees NBA owners, at least the savvier and more fortunate, tying themselves to real estate endeavors. Cuban envisions a new arena in Dallas being part of a casino-resort complex that creates significant revenue streams beyond basketball.
There is a “keep up with the Joneses’” push in the NBA that includes Ballmer’s soon to open privately financed $1 billion-plus arena in Inglewood, California. The state-of-the-art Chase Center in San Francisco opened in 2019 and is home to the Warriors and is also privately financed. Reported cost was $1.4 billion.
The Wolves’ home, Target Center, is the second oldest in the NBA. Lore and Rodriguez are on record about their interest in a new home for their teams. The Wolves’ lease at the Minneapolis owned facility reportedly expires in 2035.
The push for a new arena and location could go in a couple of directions if it goes anywhere at all. While Wolves ownership probably contributes money to a new building, the safe assumption is public financing will aggressively be lobbied for. The easiest sell to law makers might be if a municipality and the state worked with the Wolves on a new arena tied to a casino gambling complex.
With the state apparently nearing the approval of sports wagering as is already in place in neighboring states, gambling expansion is on the horizon. That could tie to arena development in the suburbs or downtown.
As the commerce heart of the region, urban planners have known for decades it’s important to have an economically viable downtown Minneapolis. To take the teams out of Minneapolis would be a “political basketball” in the public and law-making domains. However, native American sovereignty over gambling in the state will be another hot issue if it’s decided to tie a casino to a new NBA arena.1 comment