Three-time MLB MVP Alex Rodriguez and e-commerce mogul Marc Lore have signed a letter of intent with Glen Taylor and are negotiating to succeed him as owners of the Minnesota Timberwolves, sources told The Athletic.
Rodriguez and Lore signed the documents on Saturday and now have a 30-day exclusive negotiating window to try to finalize a deal with Taylor. If completed, it would infuse the Timberwolves with some mega-watt star power. It also would give Taylor the partners he has long sought to carry the franchise into the future as he prepares to step aside from the team he has owned for 27 years. The succession plan being discussed, sources said, would call for Rodriguez and Lore — two close friends who are 50-50 partners in the arrangement— to join Taylor’s ownership group as limited partners for two and a half years, at which time Taylor would then step aside and hand the reins to the new majority partners.
For a team that is languishing with the worst record in the NBA, has one playoff appearance since 2004 and has seen apathy set in among the fans, a new ownership structure with Rodriguez and Lore in prominent roles would generate some much-needed energy as it endures another difficult season on the court. It also would bring a dynamic, diverse flavor to the league’s ownership stable, sprinkling a dash of glamour on a franchise that has rarely been in the spotlight.
While the signed letter of intent does not guarantee that a deal will be completed, it does put Rodriguez and Lore in the driver’s seat. The two sides have already agreed upon some of the major elements of a potential transaction, including a $1.5 billion valuation for the franchise, sources said. Now they will spend the next month going through the finer points of the negotiation. Should a purchase agreement be reached, Lore and Rodriguez would have to be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors before officially joining the organization.
The two friends met face-to-face with Taylor and his wife, Becky, at the couple’s home in Naples, Fla., this week in a process that moved swiftly from introductions to dealmaking.
In so many ways, this arrangement would give Taylor what he has wanted and the organization what it needs.
Taylor has had the team on the market several times over the years but has never been able to bring himself to pull the trigger on relinquishing a franchise he purchased in 1994 for $88 million. He has long made it a priority to find a group that was committed to keeping the team in Minnesota. Another preference of his has been to bring on new partners in a limited role for the short term so he could serve as a mentor of sorts and help make the transition as smooth as possible. Taylor takes great pride in his experience atop the Timberwolves and the relationships he has cultivated over the years throughout the league, including with other owners and commissioner Adam Silver. His continued presence would help Lore and Rodriguez acclimate to a new league and a new venture in the early stages.
This is no doubt an emotional moment for Taylor, who loves being the owner of the Timberwolves. He saved the team from moving to New Orleans in 1994 when he swooped in out of nowhere to buy the team from distressed owners Harvey Ratner and Marv Wolfenson and sees the team as a public trust, a gift of sorts from him to the community of basketball-loving people in the Twin Cities and beyond. He wants that gift to stand the test of time long after he has gone.
As he nears his 80th birthday on April 20, Taylor has been looking for a definitive path forward for the franchise he cares so much about. There is no one in his family with plans to take over the team, so he has been searching for a young successor or successors who he believes can take care of the team and the people involved.
“I just think as time goes on, I’m more inclined to say I should probably get my house in order here,” Taylor told The Athletic in July.
Taylor has always valued personal connections in his business dealings, and this is no different. Lore and Rodriguez share a close bond and want to continue the family-type atmosphere that Taylor has always valued, and the intimate conversations that were shared this week helped the Taylors to feel comfortable in pushing this process forward.
In Rodriguez and Lore, Taylor has found two ambitious entrepreneurs with grand visions for the franchise. The Wolves are 13-40 this season, fired coach Ryan Saunders in February and took their lumps for the awkward transition to Chris Finch. They will lose their first-round pick in the upcoming draft if they don’t finish in the top three in the lottery and fans have turned away from the team as they have sunk in the standings.
There are some things to be encouraged about as well. No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards has come on strong as the season has progressed. Jaden McDaniels looks like a steal at the 28th pick. Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are finally healthy at the same time and Finch has shown promise in his first NBA head coaching job.
Now the Timberwolves could be on the brink of adding a pair of fresh voices and perspectives to the ownership group with big plans for the future.
The New York-born Rodriguez was a star for the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. He retired in 2016 and has spent the last five years emerging as a multifaceted entrepreneur and media star. He is regarded as one of the most insightful and natural baseball analysts in the game in his work for ESPN, has been a recurring guest judge on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and has a growing list of successful investments in businesses from fitness gyms to coconut water and e-sports. Two of his biggest investment wins to this point have been in Fanatics and the digital delivery service goPuff. He also is a co-founder, partner and board member of J-Lo Beauty, which was launched with his fiancée Jennifer Lopez in January.
Rodriguez’s experience as a superstar player would give him instant credibility with players and coaches and his relationship with Lopez would bring global recognition to a franchise that could use it.
The 49-year-old Lore started to build his empire with Quidsi, a company identified primarily with Diapers.com, which sold to Amazon for $545 million in 2011. He founded Jet.com, an e-commerce website, in 2014 and it was acquired by Walmart for $3.3 billion in 2016. Lore previously served as the CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, presiding over a vast expansion of the retail giant’s online business that helped it move to the No. 2 online retailer behind Amazon.
Lore has a reputation for his innovative and voracious entrepreneurial spirit and recently detailed a vision to build “a city of the future” with a new economic structure in an interview with CNBC. Since he has stepped away from Walmart, Lore has his hands in helping to develop and advise several more companies.
Lore and Taylor both were track athletes in their younger days, and now Taylor is giving serious consideration to passing the baton on one of his most prized possessions.
Rodriguez and Lore have been business partners for years. Through their halo company, VCP, they recently took public Archer Aviation, a company designing and building fully electric aircraft that can vertically take off and land.
But more than business partners, Lore and A-Rod consider themselves the closest of friends. They tried to buy the New York Mets, who were eventually sold to Steve Cohen, last year. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in January, Lore made his intentions clear.
“I’m going to probably buy a sports team,” Lore said.
Just four months later, Lore and Rodriguez appear to be on the doorstep, but there remains much work to be done. Taylor has entered into exclusivity agreements with other groups in the past, including as recently as last summer. Each time, Taylor ultimately decided he was not yet ready to sell the team.
Several other groups have also inquired and met with Taylor about purchasing the team over the last six months, but the negotiations have been complicated by the pandemic, which has sent franchise revenues plummeting as arenas have largely been closed to fans for a year.
Some would say Taylor has been indecisive, and several groups came away from negotiations with him believing he never really wanted to sell in the first place. Taylor would say he is simply being selective, taking his time to find the right partners to take over the team he cares so much about.
In Lore and Rodriguez, he now finds himself negotiating with a young, dynamic group with strong backgrounds in sports, business and entertainment and the name recognition that could put eyeballs on a team that has so often been overlooked.
(Photo: John Lamparski / Getty Images)