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Last month, Alex Rodriguez struck a deal to buy the Minnesota Timberwolves. Now comes the tricky part.
The former Yankees slugger’s $1.5 billion agreement to buy the NBA franchise — signed with his business partner, the e-commerce tycoon Marc Lore — could get a bumpy ride this week as one of team’s minority owners has sued to delay the closing of the deal.
A court-ordered suspension at a hearing slated for Monday — seen by some insiders as likely — wouldn’t necessarily kill A-Rod’s bid to finally become a professional sports team owner. The deal is coming to a head less than a year after he lost a bid to buy the New York Mets to hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen.
Nevertheless, sources say any delay would only add uncertainty to talks that already are riddled with risks.
Among the question marks is A-Rod himself, who was spotted in Miami late last month “pow-wowing” with Lore and some Timberwolves execs at a Coral Gables hotspot, according to Page Six. A source insisted the ex-MLB star — who at the time was weathering headlines about his ex Jennifer Lopez’s reunion with former flame Ben Affleck — was focused on “his kids, baseball, and business.”
Still, some insiders are scratching their heads over the terms of the purchase, which call for A-Rod and Lore taking an initial stake of just 20 percent, plunking down some $300 million with an option to buy the rest of the team within 18 months. That’s well short of the initial cash trove of nearly $2 billion that A-Rod, Lore and a cadre of investors had reportedly amassed for their Mets bid.
Indeed, sources close to the situation said that while A-Rod and Lore can make the initial payment, they’re still scrambling to raise the $1.5 billion they need to close the deal, and aren’t yet close to that number.
Some have wondered whether a lack of funds from J-Lo — whose estimated net worth of $450 million eclipses A-Rod’s $350 million — creates a headwind for the purchase, which also includes the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Lore, who a source close to the bidding bloc says is an “equal partner” with A-Rod, has a fortune pegged at $4 billion.
Either way, the relatively skimpy, 20-percent initial payment has created a more immediate problem — namely, that the team’s current owners are tussling over it.
On Monday — just two days before the sale will become eligible for approval by the NBA — Minnesota state judge Eric Tostrud is slated to rule on a request for an injunction to delay it from Meyer Orbach, a New Jersey real estate mogul who owns 17 percent of the team.
Orbach gripes that the team’s owner Glen Taylor — an 80-year-old printing magnate who also owns the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper — refuses to share any proceeds from the down payment. At a June 11 hearing, Orbach demanded that Taylor put it into escrow.
“Taylor admitted to me that he is selling his interests in the Timberwolves and Lynx because he again is in need of cash,” Meyer said in a June 11 declaration. “Taylor needs the money. Thus, the proposed transaction is structured and intended to provide Taylor with liquidity.”
Orbach said he tried for more than a year to help Taylor find an investor — including one who was willing to pay more than $100 million for a chunk of the team — but that the pair “could not agree on terms.”
Last summer, sources said Taylor began talks to sell the team for $1.5 billion to Daniel E. Straus, a former minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite an agreement getting approved by the NBA, the talks fell apart in February after Taylor tried to renegotiate the price, according to a source close to the situation.
Reps for Taylor and Straus declined to comment.
Around the same time, Timberwolves Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett had been tweeting about his own interest in buying the team.
Nonetheless, Taylor never invited Garnett to bid, and claimed publicly in March that Garnett never approached him.
That was nearly a year after Garnett claimed Taylor had broken a promise to allow Garnett to join an ownership group that would succeed Taylor. At the time, Garnett said he was fed up trying to deal with Taylor, adding, “I don’t do business with snake motherf–kers.”
Heightening the chaos further, Taylor is meanwhile being sued in Minnesota state court by plaintiffs that include former NBA great Kevin McHale for allegedly short-changing investors at his company Envoy Medical Corp.
In response to the suit, which is demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, Taylor has countersued some of the plaintiffs, alleging defamation and retaliation by a former CEO of the company who was fired in 2012.
Taylor bought the Timberwolves and the Lynx in 1994 for $94 million. Since then, sources say the franchise has struggled financially and on the court, losing money most seasons and reaching the playoffs only once during the past 18 years.
Some owners, meanwhile, are upset that the Timberwolves, despite commanding one of the league’s major markets, collect roughly $20 million in annual revenue-sharing payments from the more profitable teams, one source close to the NBA said.
Reps for A-Rod and Lore, who according to the contract can walk away from the deal if it isn’t consummated by July 31, declined to comment.
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