Timberwolves Mediator Has Sports History, Including With Glen Taylor

The former judge overseeing mediation of the Minnesota Timberwolves ownership dispute has a long history with sports lawsuits, including previous litigation involving owner Glen Taylor.

Retired Hennepin County judge Rick Solum will oversee this week’s mediation between Taylor and the group of Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore, according to someone familiar with the details. The one-day process is a contractual obligation written into the sale agreement of the NBA team, a necessary step before the more serious arbitration.

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Mediation is a non-litigation, dispute-resolution vehicle for parties to talk through their positions before a skilled and neutral mediator. The mediator, in turn, will propose a solution that tries to harmonize the competing perceptive into a pragmatic solution that is only binding if the parties adopt it. Mediation therefore tends to be less contentious than arbitration, where an arbitrator’s order is binding and difficult to later challenge in court.

Solum mediated a 2020 lawsuit filed against Taylor by a group of plaintiffs—including former Timberwolves GM and coach Kevin McHale—who accused him of sabotaging their investment into a medical device company, according to multiple people familiar with that lawsuit. Solum reportedly also mediated a 2007 dispute over a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins; arbitrated a 2002 fight between the University of Minnesota and its former men’s basketball coach, Clem Haskins; and mediated a 2014 legal battle between the Minnesota Vikings and punter Chris Kluwe.

Solum was technically chosen for the Timberwolves ownership dispute by both parties—Rodriguez and Lore selected him from a handful of names suggested by Taylor, according to a source. Representative for the buyers and the Timberwolves declined to comment. Attempts to reach Solum, who doesn’t appear to be practicing law currently, weren’t successful.

Solum’s experience with legal controversies regarding the Timberwolves furnishes him with useful context and familiarity. Sometimes an arbitrator who previously oversaw one party’s dispute might be perceived as potentially conflicted, especially if that party objected to the arbitrator. Here, Taylor, Rodriguez and Lore all signed off on Solum, which negates any concern of a conflict.

It also indicates Solum is regarded as fair and impartial. He’ll begin with a knowledge base that could facilitate talks since he won’t need the same degree of background explained to him as might another mediator. (The case involving McHale was resolved via settlement last fall.)

The Timberwolves dispute stems from a purchase agreement Taylor and Rodriguez/Lore signed in 2021. The contract allowed the buyers to purchase the NBA team in four parts, starting with 20% at a $1.5 billion valuation, and 4% escalators in each of the subsequent payments. Rodriguez and Lore have spent the last few years securing money for each successive payment. They bought another 16% last year, and had until the end of March to close on a 40% tranche that would give them control of the franchise.

Taylor announced on March 28 that the deal was off, citing missed contractual deadlines. Lore and Rodriguez disagreed, claiming that financing had been committed, and that the agreement gave them an automatic 90-day extension to close. In an interview with Sportico shortly after Taylor’s announcement, they accused the current owner of illegally trying to back out of the contract because the deal was no longer financially advantageous to him. (Sportico currently values the team at $2.94 billion, far higher than the price built into the deal).

The Timberwolves legal battle comes amid a resurgent year for the NBA team on the court. Led by star Anthony Edwards, the team won 56 regular-season games and has already advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, neither of which has happened in the last two decades. The team will face the defending champion Denver Nuggets in the second round.

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