Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said Tuesday night he is proceeding toward selling 30 percent of the team to a group led by Los Angeles private-equity investor Steve Kaplan, with conditions that Kaplan — a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies — would buy controlling interest when Taylor eventually decides to sell the team.
Taylor said he is working exclusively with Kaplan's group, and they have reached agreement on the 30 percent minority interest and a price Taylor wouldn't disclose.
Taylor said Kaplan and his group of investors must complete their due diligence on financial and other information concerning the franchise that Taylor bought in 1994 for $88.5 million. Lawyers for both men still have to draw up documents, Taylor said, and the NBA must approve the sale.
To gain that approval, Kaplan would have to sell his interest in the Grizzlies.
"Am I working with him? I am," said Taylor, a Mankato businessman who also owns the Star Tribune. "Is it proceeding? The answer is yes. Is it absolutely a deal? No, I can't say I have a deal. I don't want to come out and say I have it done. We're proceeding, and I'm satisfied with how it's going."
Taylor has said any prospective limited partner must guarantee the franchise will stay in Minnesota if that person or group eventually buys majority interest. At age 74, he said he is preparing for the day he'll no longer own the franchise.
A principal and group founder for Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management, Kaplan bought into the Grizzlies' ownership in 2012 and is that franchise's vice chairman.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in April that a Kaplan group that included Indonesian billionaires Erick Thohir and Handy Soetedjo and former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien tried unsuccessfully to buy the Atlanta Hawks and operating rights to the Hawks' Philips Arena.
Taylor has said the responsible thing to do as owner of the Wolves is to find someone to replace him as owner when he's ready to sell.
"It just seems to me if I'm a responsible owner of a team, I should go out there, find someone who is really interested, bring them in and see how it works," Taylor said last month. "So if I would die or be in a position where I can't run it, they'd be in a position to take over and make a smooth transition. I just think it's something I owe the state because I have the ownership."
Wolves star Kevin Garnett expressed interest in owning the team when the Wolves brought him back to the franchise that drafted him in 1995 in a February trade.
He confirmed that interest before the season began, but he is signed as a player through the 2016-17 season and, according to league rules, cannot be both a part owner and player.
Taylor bought the team in 1994 from original owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner.
The Milwaukee Bucks sold for $550 million and the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion in 2014 and the Atlanta Hawks sold for $850 million in 2015.