Some day, we know Glen Taylor is going to sell the Minnesota Timberwolves. That’s just what happens in professional sports. An owner buys a franchise and then some amount of time later, they sell for what should be a considerable profit. Nearly two years ago, Taylor was looking to move the franchise to its next ownership group, only to reverse course and buy up more minority stakes in the organization.
Thursday night, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo hit us with the report that Taylor is in talks with Memphis Grizzlies’ minority partner Steve Kaplan to buy 20% of the team. From Woj:
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is engaged in serious talks to sell an approximate 20 percent stake in the franchise to a group led by Memphis Grizzlies minority partner Steve Kaplan, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
For the Kaplan group, a significant motivation in purchasing the minority share of the Timberwolves is vested in hopes to position itself to buy the majority stake once Taylor decides to sell in the future, sources said. Nevertheless, whatever its wishes, there’s no assurance Kaplan’s group would have an inside track on eventual majority ownership.
Kaplan is partnering with controversial ex-Memphis Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and Indonesian billionaires Handy Soetedjo and Erick Thohir, league sources said.
I can confirm this is in fact in the process of happening with it mostly being in just the discussion stages. Kaplan would love a chance to eventually buy a majority in the team, but for now it appears to be a nice cash flow option for Taylor and a good opportunity to get a valuation on the franchise with the prices becoming astronomical the last couple of years.
However, a couple people close to the situation have told me Jason Levien is not involved. Perhaps there is a chance of Levien getting involved at the later stages, or maybe when there’s an opportunity for a majority stake, but he’s not part of the process currently. As for the idea of him being controversial, that appears to be a matter of which side of these stories you talk to. People with deeper roots in the game usually have an easier time of getting the story they want out there.
(My biggest tip on that would be to hunt for the agenda on all sides of the story and why the story got out there, but that’s all I will say in this space for now.)
As for Kaplan, the prospect of him becoming a majority owner some day does excite me if he gets that opportunity. He came close to being a part of an ownership group that nearly bought the Atlanta Hawks, only to get outbid in the final stages and decide to regroup in order to make sure you’re getting proper return on investment down the road. He’d have to sell off his stake in the Grizzlies, but that wouldn’t be a big deal. And from what I’ve been told Kaplan would go about the right way of installing good structure within the organization: smart people in charge top to bottom, analytics-friendly, and possibly a top flight coach.
I have no idea what that would mean for people currently in place. I like the influence Milt Newton has had on a lot of what’s gone on before Flip Saunders’ passing and since. There are a lot of great development and training staff people within the organization you’d hope would remain. And it remains to be seen what that would mean for potential future ownership with Kevin Garnett involved, which is the way things seemed to be headed over the past six months. There could be real roadblocks in that respect.
For now, it’s a smaller move with the potential for establishing the next era of Wolves basketball. Taylor has always been adamant the franchise remains local and be secure within the Minneapolis market. I don’t doubt that will happen no matter whom he ends up selling to.