Every NBA owner has a few black marks on their reputations. For Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, those include agreeing to pay Joe Smith under the table, lording over a franchise that managed just two playoff series wins with Kevin Garnett in his prime, hitting a dismal run of form thereafter, not having particularly kind words for Garnett and others following their departures, and, depending on whom you ask, hiring the erratic David Kahn as general manager.
All things considered, though, Taylor has a relatively good reputation compared to other owners (which says something about those owners), currently serving as chairman of the league's Board of Governors and generally not doing anything especially embarrassing in public. There's a sense that Taylor, a former state senator, conceives of a sports team as part of the fabric of the community rather than a mere business venture.
As reported by Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press, Taylor is now looking for, in his words, a successor. Except, in keeping with his approach, he's not looking for the highest bidder or a regular change in ownership:
Taylor told The Associated Press on Friday that he is looking to add a minority partner who could buy a part of the team that includes an option to buy Taylor out after observing the day-to-day operations of running a professional sports team.
Taylor said he has yet to speak to any specific candidates, but made it clear that one of the biggest priorities for him will be a commitment to keeping the Timberwolves in Minnesota.
"I could find somebody to buy the team. That's not my problem," Taylor said at his office at Taylor Corp., a privately held printing and marketing giant. "I have to find someone that's committed to here. It's always best if it would be a Minnesotan. I'm telling you I don't know that's the way it's going to work out. I haven't had a lot of Minnesotans step up." [...]
Bringing someone in would help solidify the franchise. The 71-year-old Taylor has had a few health issues in the past. He said he's feeling strong and healthy these days, but thinks "it's in the best interest of Minnesota" to have a plan in place.
"If something would happen to me in the sense of illness or if I die, then something's in place," Taylor said. "I have let that be known and I'm going to talk to some people about that."
Taylor is making a responsible move in bringing in a successor to observe his role, and he deserves credit for not selling out the interests of Minnesota's fans and selling to someone who might move the team at first opportunity. After the shenanigans in Seattle, it's a legitimate concern for any small-market franchise. Taylor believes he owes the city, and he's acting accordingly.
But a responsible sale is still a sale, and discussing the next owner in terms of succession seems fairly euphemistic given the vagaries of any transfer of ownership. Taylor's idea seems to be to bring in a new owner who can learn some sort of "Timberwolves Way" and run the team in a way that Taylor would approve of. But this successor will enter this agreement with the assumption that he'll eventually be the primary owner, and that will necessarily involve a set of desires and dreams that Taylor cannot control. For all we know, the period of observation will convince the owner that he doesn't want to run a team in the same manner as Taylor, or perhaps soon after the official change in ownership he'll decide that he's not quite as committed to Minnesota as his predecessor. Those are worst-case scenarios for the Twin Cities, but they're still possible.
The problem with Taylor's plan isn't the plan itself, but that any change in ownership is fraught with unforeseen circumstances and potential pitfalls. New bosses have different priorities that no one can possibly predict years before they take power. Taylor can try to sell this idea as a safe bet, but there's no such thing when it comes to selling a sports franchise. In this case, the uncomfortable transition will just be delayed a few years.