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Pohlad Agrees to Sell Twins
By Michael Khoo
October 8, 1999
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Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad has signed a letter of intent to sell the team pending approval of a new ballpark in downtown St. Paul. If the deal goes through, sports moguls Glen Taylor and Robert Naegele will head up the new ownership group. Taylor and Naegele are, respectively, the principal owners of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Wild. A sale would give them control of three of the Twin Cities' four major professional sports teams.

FROM THE CHEERS during last night's announcement, one might have thought the Twins were already playing in a new outdoor ballpark, and not just playing, but heading to the World Series. Despite the fanfare, the news was considerably more mundane.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor says he doesn't expect to make money with the Twins. Hear Gary Eichten's interview with Taylor.
The agreement comes nearly a week after last Friday's missed deadline, and the deal is a fragile one. It would unravel if Coleman's stadium push collapses. Current Twins owner Carl Pohlad wasn't available last night to comment on the deal. Taylor and Naegele declined to discuss the details, including a potential sale price, believed to be roughly $120 million for a team that cost Pohlad $36 million in 1984. Nor would they say which of the two investors would own a greater share of the enterprise. Rather, the announcement focused on what Naegele called the clearing of a major hurdle. Naegele says there are three others to clear: voters, legislature, and governor. Hurdle two will be finding support among St. Paul residents. The mayor is asking them to approve an increase in the city sales tax to fund one-third of a $325 million ballpark for the Twins. Polls show St. Paul voters oppose the mayor's ballot initiative nearly 2-1. Coleman says identifying new owners is an attempt to defuse some of the bitter feelings toward the current ownership. Although the Twins won two World Series championships under Pohlad's watch, his public image was wounded during what many Minnesotans considered a heavy-handed attempt to secure state funding for a ballpark in 1997.

In addition to the city's one-third contribution, the state would cover another third of the stadium cost and the team would pay the rest with revenues generated by the facility. Opponents of public funding for a new ballpark who were on hand for the announcement say a change in ownership won't automatically precipitate a change in voter sentiment.

Even if stadium-boosters can use the new ownership group to win voter approval in November, it may make little difference when the plan arrives at the state Legislature. The fractious stadium push in 1997 has left even previous ballpark supporters reluctant to resume the debate, and opponents such as DFLer Matt Entenza say the plan has little chance of success at the Capitol. On the other hand, prospective buyer Glen Taylor is a former Republican Senate minority leader with a firm understanding of legislative deal-making.

But a key opponent says Taylor's expertise and Capitol connections won't be enough. John Marty is a DFL state senator from Roseville who was instrumental in defeating the 1997 proposals. He admits Taylor has friends at the Capitol, but says in the end, it won't matter.

And if Coleman, Naegele, and Taylor do leap the next two hurdles, they may find the last one the tallest of the three, literally, if not figuratively. Governor Jesse Ventura has already made clear his opposition to tax-payer supported sports facilities.