The news of the new potential Timberwolves owner came out of left field Saturday, or perhaps more accurately, the left side of the infield.
Former Major League Baseball shortstop and third baseman Alex Rodriguez and billionaire Marc Lore have entered an exclusive letter of intent to purchase the Timberwolves and Lynx from owner Glen Taylor.
The surprising news seems to settle a question that has plagued the Wolves, Lynx and their fans for months since it was revealed Taylor was listening to offers last summer — would he sell the teams and to whom?
If the sale goes through, the change wouldn't happen overnight. Taylor would still be the controlling owner until 2023, under terms of the sale, with Rodriguez and Lore, who most recently led Walmart's eCommerce Business, coming on as limited partners before taking controlling ownership in about two years.
ESPN reported the sale was for $1.5 billion.
Of primary concern to Wolves and Lynx fans would be whether the new owners would keep the teams in Minnesota. Taylor said Rodriguez and Lore will keep the franchises in Minnesota and they will include language in the potential deal to that effect.
"They will keep the team here, yes. We will put it in the agreement," Taylor said. "At this point we have a letter of intent, but when we make up the contract we'll put that in there. That's no problem. That won't be a problem."
Legal observers in July told the Star Tribune such language in a potential deal would be tricky to enforce and would have to avoid being overly punitive in the case of a move for it to hold up in court.
The only penalty currently in place a group would have in moving the Wolves is the breaking of the lease with the city of Minneapolis over the use of Target Center. The lease lasts until 2035 and carries a $50 million penalty for breaking the lease, a drop in the bucket compared to the franchise's sale price.
Taylor said the sale came together "really fast" only over the last few days and they signed the letter of intent Saturday afternoon. He said his wife, Becky, made everyone hamburgers and banana cream pie as they discussed the deal in person at the Taylors' Florida home.
"Just in the last week or so did I make contact with these guys," Taylor said. "They had indicated they had some interest in being involved in the ownership. I had not known them personally, so contacted them, talked to them on the phone, did all that, really liked how it went."
That speed of the agreement came as a surprise given the measured way in which Taylor approached the sale since last summer. At one point Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, had an exclusive negotiating window with former Grizzlies minority owner Daniel Straus that didn't materialize. One factor in the sides coming to an agreement was that Taylor said they agreed on "everything" when drawing up the documents.
"It went from nothing to signed within a week," Taylor said.
It also helped, Taylor said, that he clicked with Rodriguez's and Lore's vision for ownership of the franchises.
"When I met them and talked to them and just in the conversation what they were after — they're bright people, very bright people, very competitive," Taylor said. "I could see them challenging me which I liked to have. ... They said, 'We got to learn about basketball. We'd like you to stay around and help us run it for a while.' Then we'll switch over. Those meet all of my goals."
That's why Taylor, 79, will remain the controlling owner into 2023 with Rodriguez and Lore acting as partners to Taylor in decision making. Last year Taylor stepped down as CEO of Taylor Corp., one of the nation's largest privately held companies, with operations in nine countries that work on commercial printing, promotional and software services as well as secure mailings, labels, forms and retail signage.
"It gives me peace of mind," Taylor said. "At my age, going ahead, if something happens to me, I know what's going to happen to the Timberwolves. It's all kind of set. I don't have to worry about that. I don't have to have my family worry about it. In the next couple years, if everything goes as I hope, I still can participate. So it gives me the best of both worlds.
Rodriguez, 45, and his partner, singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, were in the bidding to the buy the New York Mets in 2020, but backed out the bidding when hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen was granted exclusive negotiating rights.
Cohen's group bought the Mets in November for $2.4 billion.
Rodriguez, now an analyst on baseball programming for ESPN, played 22 seasons in the major leagues and, statistically, is one of the sports best players. He was a 14-time All-Star, won three American League MVP awards and hit 696 home runs. He earned more than $455 million playing baseball, according to spotrac.com.
Rodriguez played with the Mariners, Rangers and Yankees and won the 2009 World Series with the Yankees while his numbers and career came under scrutiny for his link to performance-enhancing drugs, which he later admitted.
"We look forward to entering this phase of the process with Glen Taylor," Rodriguez said in a statement to ESPN. "Our respect for him and the legacy he has built lays an amazing foundation for what is to come. We are excited by the prospect of getting to know the Timberwolves organization."
Taylor said Rodriguez and Lore might be at Monday's Wolves game.
Other suitors for the Wolves ownership included a group led by former NBA player Arron Afflalo. Former Wolves player Kevin Garnett said he had interest in acquiring the team but Taylor said he neither heard from Garnett nor a group affiliated with him.