Jim Pohlad, owner of the Minnesota Twins, is joining a group of other professional sports team owners in bidding for the Fox regional sports networks, Bloomberg reported, a move that could bring Fox Sports North back under local control for the first time since 1993.
The Fox networks are being sold by Walt Disney Co. in a move sought by regulators for approval of its $71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox Inc. Disney already owns ESPN and, the Justice Department ruled, would be too dominant in sports broadcasting if it also owned the Fox regional sports networks.
Disney reportedly wants to sell the 21 regional networks in one deal, but sports team owners in various markets are stepping up to buy networks closest to them. The networks may ultimately be sold individually or in small groups.
Bloomberg on Wednesday, citing two sources anonymously, said Pohlad is joining a bidder group of companies led by John Malone, who owns the Atlanta Braves, and Tom Gores, owner of the Detroit Pistons of the NBA.
Pohlad could not be reached for comment Thursday. A Twins spokesman didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Several other bidders have emerged, including Sinclair Broadcast Group and Major League Baseball, which is said to be bidding as a way to protect broadcast coverage for smaller-market teams like the Twins. The New York Yankees are reportedly bidding for YES Network, which broadcasts the team and has the highest financial value of the 21 networks.
Some consolidation of the bids is a possibility, Bloomberg reported. Allen & Co., the New York investment firm that is a leader in media and technology deals, is running the sale.
Fox Sports North, which broadcasts most of the games of the Twins, Timberwolves, Lynx and Wild as well as many University of Minnesota teams, has been owned by 21st Century Fox and its predecessor company, News Corp., since 2000.
It began as WCCO II, a second cable-distributed channel of WCCO-TV, in 1986. Three years later, it adopted sports programming coverage, anchored first by Minnesota North Stars games, and the name Midwest Sports Channel. CBS owned the network from 1993 to 2000.