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Continued: From farm boy to billionaire, Glen Taylor steers his own course

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 29, 2014 - 5:44 PM

“He buys companies many times a year,” Jean Taylor said. “This one is more public than wedding invitations. But a big hunk of Taylor Corporation is going through that transition from traditional print to digital so there are adjacencies but also new challenges and risks.”

Taylor likes to buy companies he considers astutely run. He tends to retain management and, depending on the deal and the economy, uses his own formula of cash and borrowing to finance those transactions.

And Taylor has never shied away from the public eye. When the Timberwolves were poised to move to New Orleans, he stepped up to buy them in 1995 — thrusting himself into the glare of the pro sports.

He’d never been to the Capitol before he was elected a state senator in the 1980s. He rose to minority leader and toyed with a gubernatorial run but scuttled those plans when his first marriage dissolved and he fathered a child out of wedlock.

That daughter, 26-year-old Kendahl Prokop, graduated from the University of St. Thomas and works as a marketing specialist at Taylor’s hearing implant business in White Bear Lake. “My dad has always been a big part of my life no matter what our situation was,” she said. “It’s never been awkward to me. It’s just the way it is, and I’m really in awe of my dad and what he does and how he takes a challenge and works so hard to overcome it.”

Thorns amid roses

Amid all Taylor’s success, growing Taylor Corp. from a single printing company and then building his many-tentacled holdings, not everything has turned out rosy.

Workers at Rembrandt Enterprises in Thompson, Iowa, complained about having overtime pay wiped out when Taylor was part of an acquisition that made the giant ag firm the nation’s third-largest egg company with nearly 6 million hens.

Taylor’s NBA team had struggled to win since he took over in 1995, partly because of league sanctions that included the loss of several first-round draft picks after a case of salary-cap tampering involving forward Joe Smith. Recently, reports have surfaced that Taylor has discussed shopping his basketball franchise around for a new owner.

Taylor wound up with 70 percent of a $10 million promissory note when former Wolf Christian Laettner’s plans to redevelop a tobacco warehouse went belly up recently in Durham, N.C.

His Envoy Medical Corp. hearing implant firm in White Bear Lake has struggled to attract customers because insurance companies won’t pay for a new procedure.

And union leaders complained about his tough tactics at a Golden Valley envelope company he took over in the mid-1970s and another operation in Hugo.

“He was anti-union, and we were told that he threatened to shut the plant down if they organized in Hugo,” said Dean Stanton, a former president of the local printers union.

Taylor, who takes over a Star Tribune where roughly two-thirds of the employees belong to one of eight unions, bristles at the charge that he’s ruthless when it comes to unions. He mentioned one plant he took over that included both union and nonunion workers. When he offered to pay everyone the same union wage, the union eventually disbanded.

“If you ask me would I prefer to have unions or not, I’d prefer not to have unions because I want to have as close a relationship with the employees that I can. I want to know what’s in their interest and there is a lot of ways of getting that done.”

He points to Taylor Corp.’s in-house day care center — among the nation’s first — as an example of taking care of workers’ needs. “Society at one time had people who got abused at workplaces, right?” he said. “They had to collectively get together to protect their interests. So they became union members. But society is changing now and some things unions brought society, government gives the people, right?”

Dollar bills to billions

When Taylor called his brother Roger in March to tell him about his rekindled interest in the Star Tribune, the younger Glen said the decision had risks but felt right. Those who know Taylor say he has an uncanny way of balancing his analytical brain with gut feelings.

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  • At a glance

    Age: 73

    What: New owner of the Star Tribune

    Home: Mankato

    Education: Studied math and physics at what was Mankato State

    Politics: Served as a Republican state senator in the 1980s, including as minority leader from 1984-86

    Car: Audi A8 with nearly 80,000 miles

    Family: Second wife, Becky Mulvihill; five grown children Terri, Jean, Taylor, Jeff and Kendahl and more than 20 grandchildren. Taylor has known Becky’s family for years and knew her husband, Jim, before he died of cancer. Their daughters eventually told Taylor, “Mom’s thinking of dating again.” They were married in 2007.

    Businesses: Taylor Corp. started as a North Mankato printing firm and in 40 years has grown from a single company with 200 employees to an array of 80 companies with 9,000 employees. Taylor also owns the Minnesota Timberwolves; one of the nation’s largest egg companies, Rembrandt Enterprises in Iowa; he’s the largest shareholder in Northland Capital investment bank and owns Envoy Medical Corp., makers of implantable hearing devices.

    Philanthropy: Taylor has donated millions to Minnesota State University, Mankato, and is a major supporter of a group in Guatemala that builds schools and trains teachers to educate indigenous children.

    Fun fact: The doors at his house are custom-made and tall so Wolves employees don’t have to duck.

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