Inside the Minnesota Meltdown of A-Rod, Lore and the T-Wolves Deal

Glen Taylor’s sale of the Minnesota Timberwolves to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez captivated the sports business world over the last three years, as the buyers scrambled to raise capital and the deal’s multiyear structure raised eyebrows amid soaring NBA valuations.

The process reached a head on Thursday with dueling statements from the two sides.

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“The Timberwolves and Lynx are no longer for sale,” Taylor said on Thursday morning, citing A-Rod and Lore’s failure to make a payment to take control of the team by the late March deadline.

The buyers countered two hours later.

“We have fulfilled our obligations, have all necessary funding and are fully committed to closing our purchase of the team as soon as the NBA completes its approval process,” Lore and Rodriguez said in a statement. “Glen Taylor’s statement is an unfortunate case of seller’s remorse that is short sighted and disruptive to the team and the fans during a historic winning season.”

A Twitter post with what appears to be excerpts of the purchase agreement shows language that indicates Lore and Rodriguez are entitled to “an additional ninety days” if held up by NBA or other governmental approvals. A source familiar with the deal confirmed that the screenshots are accurate.

Should it fall apart, the inability to get this deal to the finish line is a massive swing and miss—or even an airball—for A-Rod and Lore. That’s especially true given the value appreciation of the team, along with its rapid ascent to the top of the NBA standings. And in the end, this might be what Taylor wanted all along.

In early 2021, the average NBA team was worth $2.37 billion, per Sportico’s inaugural NBA team valuations, and Minnesota checked in at $1.43 billion. Three months later, Taylor reached a deal to sell to Lore and Rodriguez at a roughly $1.55 billion valuation.

According to the deal points, as laid out in a 2021 lawsuit filed by a Timberwolves limited partner, Lore and Rodriguez bought the initial 20% of the Timberwolves and WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx in July 2021. The next roughly 20% stake, which they bought last year, was composed of limited partner shares owned by Taylor. The latest 40% stake was to be comprised of general-partnership interests and all of the non-Taylor LP shares. The final 20%, which Lore and Rodriguez could have bought any time before next March, would have been all equity owned by Taylor.

However, the relationship between Taylor and the incoming owners gradually deteriorated in the time since the agreement was struck, according to someone familiar with Taylor’s thinking. As an example, Lore and Rodriguez built a new owners suite inside the Target Center where they typically took in games—a very different approach from that taken by Taylor and his wife, Becky, who prefer to be more accessible.

Taylor, of course, could have chosen to keep negotiating with Rodriguez and Lore. He opted instead to terminate the deal due to contractually obligated deadlines—not the sign of a pleasant working relationship.

In a televised interview with KSTP on Thursday, Taylor said he wasn’t frustrated with the result. He added that Rodriguez and Lore would keep the “36%” that they already bought and he would continue to run the team as he has been doing. The 82-year-old indicated that he would not seek to sell the Timberwolves or Lynx in the near future. Taylor bought the NBA team for $88 million in 1995.

It’s unclear if Rodriguez and Lore will pursue any legal action. A representative for the group didn’t respond to questions about what they might do next.

The three-year timeline of the deal was extremely unusual for an NBA transaction and became problematic as the league went through a historic jump in valuations. The biggest gains were at the bottom of the financial table, as investors recognized the value of owning 1/30th of the NBA, whether in New Orleans or New York, thanks to central revenue and a new blockbuster TV contract on the horizon. A pair of bottom-quartile clubs were sold in 2023: the Charlotte Hornets by Michael Jordan for $3 billion, and the Milwaukee Bucks, which were valued at $3.2 billion when Jimmy and Dee Haslam bought Marc Lasry’s stake.

The average NBA franchise is now worth $4 billion, 69% higher than three years earlier. The Timberwolves rank No. 28 in the league at $2.94 billion.

Throughout the process, many around the industry speculated that Taylor was aware that his agreeing to sell to a group that still needed to raise the money meant he might never have to sell at all. When Taylor was negotiating with Lore and Rodriguez, other groups were discussing cash offers at a similar $1.5 billion price, according to multiple people familiar with the negotiations. Taylor chose to pursue the deal that let him keep control for at least a few more years.

As Rodriguez and Lore tried to raise capital, some potential investors pushed back on investing at a $2 billion-plus valuation when Rodriguez and Lore were in the deal at $1.55 billion. There is a limited partnership discount with sports teams, and some investors joked about needing an “A-Rod” discount if they had to answer to the retired baseball star.

The pair had previously been in talks with Carlyle Group on financing the transaction, but the private equity giant was unable to reach an agreement with the NBA. Facing a deadline to close at the end of the month, the incoming ownership group turned to Blue Owl Capital’s Blue Owl Homecourt last week to try and help finance their next 40% stake of the team.

Representatives for the NBA and Blue Owl declined to make an immediate comment.

This is also not the first time Taylor has come close to selling the franchises. In 2020, Memphis Grizzlies investor Daniel E. Straus was reportedly in advanced talks to buy the Timberwolves and Lynx, but they ultimately fell apart. A representative for the Timberwolves declined to comment about Taylor’s expectations upon entering the deal.

Minnesota is 50-22 this season with a chance to tie the franchise record of 58 wins set during the 2003-04 season. The club sits a half-game behind the Nuggets for the best record in the Western Conference.

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