Every time owner Glen Taylor considered selling the Timberwolves in recent years, there was considerable interest from people/groups outside Minnesota looking to buy the team and move it to what is perceived as a better market. Taylor, a former senator from Minnesota, shot those overtures down.
Now Taylor has found the partners for a sale he wanted in former MLB MVP Alex Rodriguez and his billionaire friend Marc Lore and they are in negotiations to buy the team. Part of the deal being finalized is a provision that the team will not be moved, Taylor told Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune.
“They will keep the team here, yes. We will put it in the agreement,” Taylor said. “At this point we have a letter of intent, but when we make up the contract we’ll put that in there. That’s no problem. That won’t be a problem.”
No doubt Rodriguez and Lore will say they have no plans to move the team. However, Hine at the Star-Tribune asked legal experts about putting “no move” legal language into the sale agreement and was told that language “would be tricky to enforce and would have to avoid being overly punitive in the case of a move for it to hold up in court.”
This simply means, if the new owners wanted to, they could fight it.
The Timberwolves have a lease at the Target Center in Minneapolis that runs through 2034-35. However, the cost to break that lease is “just” $50 million — 3.3% of the franchise’s $1.5 billion sale price. That’s not much extra money to spend for owners willing to move the team.
The Timberwolves certainly will not be on the move anytime soon from Minnesota, and with the NBA considering expansion, a couple of likely target markets will be unavailable. If a new team goes into Seattle as expected, the only larger U.S. television market than Minneapolis/St. Paul without an NBA team would be Tampa Bay, but favorable lease and arena deals could make a slightly smaller market (St. Louis, for example) better financially. (How much local television markets/deals will matter in the coming years as NBA viewership patterns change with younger generations is also up for debate.)
A decade from now the Timberwolves are probably still in Minnesota. However, it’s not the lock Taylor and Timberwolves fans hope it would be.