In the Spotlight

News & Features
Eyes Wide Open
By Bill Catlin
October 8, 1999
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The men heading up the partnership to buy the twins are no strangers to professional sports. Glen Taylor owns the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Robert Naegele is managing partner of the Minnesota Wild hockey team.

GLEN TAYLOR KNOWS HOW TO MAKE MONEY. Forbes magazine pegs his fortune at $1.5 billion. The magazine says Taylor Corporation has 90 percent of the national market for printing wedding invitations and the like. But in his career Taylor has not simply been concerned with making money. He also served in the Minnesota senate, and held the position of minority leader. Taylor says one of his primary motives in agreeing to buy the Twins is civic. He says both he and Naegele feel they've been very fortunate in Minnesota, and buying the team, if a new stadium is built, is a way of giving back to the community.


Glen Taylor discusses his conditional purchase of the Twins. 10/8/99

Robert Naegele discusses his partnership in the move to buy the Twins. 10/7/99

Saint Paul Mayor Norm Coleman announces the conditional agreement for the sale of the Twins. 10/7/99

Hear the news conference announcing the Twins' sale. 10/7/99

"We enjoy the Twins, the history of the Twins, and we want to do our part in keeping them here," Taylor said in an MPR interview. "Certainly it's a challenge, there's some risk in it, and we're both people who have done that in the past and are willing to just take on those challenges in the future."

This is the second time Taylor has moved to save a floundering team. The Timberwolves previous owners nearly sold the team to buyers planning to move it to New Orleans. But Taylor says he doesn't expect the Twins will be a money maker if he and Naegele become owners. "Your goal is over a several year period of time to break even. With some years you might lose a little bit, and some years you might make a little bit, but I'm sure that is the way it's going to work out," he said.

Taylor's new partner is former billboard magnate Robert Naegele Junior. In 1985, the billboard company was sold for an estimated $400 million, and Naegele bought Rollerblade Incorporated. Naegele has since sold that company too, but he made news in 1995 when he gave whopping bonuses to Rollerblade's 280 employees. Naegele went on to head the partnership that is bringing NHL hockey back to his home state. Minnesota Wild spokesman Bill Robertson says Naegele's participation in the Twins deal is also civic minded, but the goal is to do better than break even.

"I don't necessarily know that it's not going to make money," Robertson said. "I think it's our hope. You never want to go into any type of investment saying that you're not going to try to make money at it. I think we're going to do everything possible and put all the things we can do, all the different marketing techniques and try to make it work."

Taylor and Naegele have been vague about how they might exploit their combined ownership of three professional sports teams. Robertson declined to say as well, but says he saw what can be done when he worked for Disney, which owns the Anaheim Angels baseball team and the Mighty Ducks hockey team.

Taylor, Naegele and other unnamed partners will buy the team only if a deal to build a new stadium can be reached. St. Paul voters will decide on a make or break increase in the city sales tax next month. Both Taylor and Naegele received public subsidies for their current teams' arenas. The Wild's is still under construction in downtown St. Paul. Dean Bonham, head of a Denver sports-consulting company says even if Taylor and Naegele acquire the team and a new stadium, Major League Baseball's runaway player salaries and other financial problems make it unlikely the team would make much money on its operations. He says any significant profit would likely come only when they decided to sell the team to someone else.

"Typically what we've seen in the past is if somebody comes in and buys a franchise irrespective of the league at a reasonable price and can operate that franchise on a break even or reasonably profitable basis over ten years, you can double your money or more, in fact you can more than double your money on a 10 year hold," Bonham said.

With the U.S. stock market doing far better than that in the last few years, Bonham concedes other investments offer better returns.