Future Timberwolves ownership may not be local

Ann Heisenfelt | AP file

A report today says the Minnesota Timberwolves may soon end up in the hands of out-of-town owners.

YahooSports says Glen Taylor is in talks to sell a minority share of his team to private-equity investor Steve Kaplan. But it’s Kaplan’s reported partner in the rumored deal that has some local wags concerned.

The group involves Indonesian billionaires Handy Soetedjo and Erick Thohir, and ex-Memphis Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien, an NBA minority ownership vagabond, who has had minority ownership in several teams, all of whom ended up with front office soap operas that reduced some of the winning teams to junk.

Taylor tried to sell the team a few years ago, but attached conditions that the new ownership has to pledge to keep the team in Minnesota. But he got no acceptable offers and took the team off the market. A Target Center renovation project includes a promise to keep the team here at least until the 2030’s.

Flip Saunders’ death complicated the team’s ownership outlook. Saunders received a stake in the team when he returned to the franchise and it was believed he and Kevin Garnett would put together an ownership team to buy out Taylor, who’s not getting any younger.

“At this point, we have a lot more questions than answers about where this is going,” Canis Hoopus says today. “While I’ve been calling out for new ownership for a long time, these are not the guys who would be at the top of my list. Levien especially has a history of franchise hopping and failed relationships that make me very nervous about handing him power over the Timberwolves.”

He may fit right in for the most dysfunctional — and occasionally incompetent — sports franchise in Minnesota.

On the other hand, Zach Harper at A Wolf Among Wolves says Levien isn’t involved in this deal.

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.