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Continued: Glen Taylor: Soul of a billionaire

  • Article by: TERRY FIEDLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 26, 1998 - 3:51 PM

But two spending decisions announced within a week of each
other in October not only made front-page news, they provided much
to consider for a man who ponders the issues of ego and higher
good.

First, Taylor signed 21-year-old basketball prodigy Kevin
Garnett to a six-year, $126 million contract extension starting in
the 1998-99 season - the richest long-term contract ever in team
sports and considerably more than he and his limited partners paid
for the whole Timberwolves franchise in March 1995.

Then Taylor announced a cash gift of $8 million to his alma
mater, Mankato State.

At the time, jokes floated that Garnett's agent was disappointed
at the announcement of the Mankato State gift - it proved that

Taylor still had some money left.

Of Garnett's contract, Taylor said: "That's the market price;
that's what it takes to play. We want to give them the chance to be
NBA champs one day. You get a Kevin Garnett, and he inspires
everyone."

Although Taylor can't be sure if the team will be profitable
in future years because of the "contracts we've signed," he says the
franchise will be profitable on an operating basis this season.

Attendance, corporate sponsorships and suite sales are all up, as is
the value of the team, according to Financial World magazine. It
estimated late last year that the Wolves were worth $123 million,
compared with the $88.5 million that Taylor and his partners paid.

Despite that, Taylor struggles with Garnett's pay. "I have
difficulty justifying it," he said. "It's beyond all of our minds to
know how much it is or what it is for."

In comparison, his gift to Mankato State will have concrete
results - it provides about two-thirds of the money needed to build
the Taylor Center, a combined welcome center, admissions office and
5,000-seat arena. The gift is believed to be the largest ever to the
state's 36-school system of universities, community colleges and
technical colleges.

Taylor gave the money in the names of all Mankato State grads
at the company, but it was also a very personal decision.

Taylor, who was married with a child when he began college,
said: "To make it, I needed a job, a loan and a scholarship."

He got the scholarship and the flexibility to complete school
amid the demands on him. And when Taylor asked some of the faculty
if he should pursue an opportunity in printing after graduation or
get a job teaching math, they gave him the advice he would later
take to the bank.

Looking ahead

These days Taylor is best known as the owner of the Wolves. "In
10 years in the Senate I did a lot of public speaking, but ownership
of the Wolves is so much more public. On any plane out of
Minneapolis, people recognize me, and that still surprises me."

Taylor is intrigued at the prospect of somehow combining both
the Timberwolves and the Minnesota Twins into a year-round sports
entertainment company that could share expenses and offer fans,
advertisers and corporate sponsors more encompassing packages.

He says he has talked with Twins owner Carl Pohlad about various
possibilities, but nothing has developed.

Things can change quickly, though, as he knows from his
experience with the Timberwolves. Several weeks before Marv
Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner sold the team, various business and
political figures had asked Taylor if he could help them find a way
to keep the team in Minnesota, while addressing their difficult
financial situation.

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