A messy Timberwolves ownership fight threatens to overshadow a successful season

The final two home games of the Minnesota Timberwolves regular season should bring nothing but party atmospheres.

The Wolves still have an outside chance to be the No. 1 seed team in the Western Conference, will host Game 1 of their first-round playoff series for the first time in 20 years and get All-Star Karl- Anthony Towns. on the ground earlier than initially planned.

The players are completely focused on the task at hand and the goal of advancing past the first round of the playoffs for only the second time in its 35-year history.

The rest of their organization faced turmoil as a once-planned ownership transfer from Glen Taylor to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez caught fire, leading to a surprising public fight between the two sides that caught fans and fans alike. team employees. between.

All of that should be on display Friday night when Lore and Rodriguez are expected to attend the game against the Atlanta Hawks, team sources said. Athleticism. This will be the first time they return to the arena since the conflict began on March 28.

Heated allegations circulated and were recorded. This week, comments from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and two coming from reports kept the issue at the forefront as the Timberwolves (55-25) chase down the West’s top seed.

Silver said the league would stay out of the fight, viewing it as a dispute between a buyer and seller that, per the purchase contract, will be referred to mediation and arbitration to be resolved. But he added some clarity to the situation when asked about Lore and Rodriguez saying the only reason they didn’t close their doors at the end of March was because they were waiting for approval from the league.

“The dispute is precisely about whether they acted within the time frame of the option that Glen Taylor sold them,” Silver said at the board of governors meeting in New York this week. “This is the very heart of the dispute. This dispute will therefore be resolved independently of the league office.

Taylor claims Lore and Rodriguez didn’t get the money on time and missed several benchmarks in the deal before the March 27 deadline, rendering their option to buy the remaining 40 percent expired. The contract provides for a 90-day extension “if all NBA approvals or other required approvals from a government entity have not yet been obtained,” but Taylor’s view is that this does not apply because the option has expired.

“If they had the money on the 27th, the deal would have been done and they would have been in control,” Taylor said. Athleticism on March 28, the day he announced the sale was complete. “But they didn’t.”

Documents reviewed by Athleticism show that Lore and Rodriguez sent signed financial commitment letters to the NBA on March 20. The documents cover the more than $600 million needed to purchase the remaining 40 percent of the Timberwolves and Lynx that would have moved them from sponsor status to majority owner. As part of a three-step purchase deal at a $1.5 billion valuation, Lore and Rodriguez previously purchased pieces in 2021 and ’23, bringing them to 36% ownership.

However, proof of funds does not constitute payment in full, and the circumstances surrounding the latest capital raise could play a role in subsequent proceedings.

At least part of their funds for the final piece came fairly late in this process when Lore and Rodriguez had to pivot quickly after the Carlyle Group was unable to comply with NBA guidelines to participate in the purchase.

Lore and Rodriguez had been working with Carlyle for months on their projects, but Carlyle had to step aside due to potential conflicts of interest in the investment world. With Carlyle out, they decided to secure Dyal Capitalwhich had already been approved by the NBAto help bridge the gap.

As Silver said, this is the crux of the debate. Rodriguez and Lore said last week that because they submitted the financial statements a week before the closing date, they were eligible for a 90-day extension to go through the league’s approval process.

Taylor said the contract required them to close the entire deal by March 27, not just provide proof of funds. When that date passed, no money had been transferred and no league approval had been obtained, so he believed he was allowed to move forward as a general partner.

“The league never even got approval because they didn’t get their stuff in time,” Taylor said in March.

“We were ready to close on March 27,” Rodriguez said. Athleticism on March 29. “The NBA wasn’t ready. »

Even if things went wrong, Silver resisted putting himself in the middle of it.

“In their purchase contract, they basically agreed to a dispute resolution mechanism that includes mediation and arbitration, and that’s where it’s happening,” Silver said. “The league has no role to play in this process.”

Two other related items were reported this week, starting with an ESPN report Wednesday that Lore and Rodriguez submitted financial projections calling for the Timberwolves to stay below the luxury tax threshold next season. This would mean they would have had to split the core of the team to avoid heavy financial penalties. The report said cost-cutting expectations “were among the concerns that led Taylor to cancel” the deal.

On a technicality: Taylor’s feelings about Lore and Rodriguez’s spending habits do not give him legal grounds to terminate the contract, nor has he claimed that to be the case. He said last month that what it all boiled down to was a contract they failed to honor. He then did not express concern about their ability to pay the tax publicly.

Athleticism confirmed that these projections were submitted by Lore and Rodriguez. They are not binding. Lore said in March that he had plenty of money and wouldn’t hesitate to spend it to get past the luxury tax and maintain the core of a successful team.

“I have hundreds of millions of dollars of liquid capital in the bank, ready to invest if necessary,” he said then.

THURSDAY, AthleticismIt is Shams Charania reported that Tim Connelly, the president of basketball operations who has played a huge role in the Wolves’ surge this season, has an opt-out option in his contract this summer.

Lore and Rodriguez recruited Connelly to Denver two years ago, giving him a lucrative five-year contract. Taylor gave Lore and Rodriguez his blessing to go after the executive they wanted to make the ownership transition smooth, and he gave final approval on the significant compensation package.

Considering the strings Connelly has pulled to help the Wolves get to where they are, the chances of him becoming a free agent this summer loom large in the franchise’s future. Whoever makes the decisions this summer will have to make sure Connelly stays in Minnesota.

That means Connelly could continue his current contract for the remaining three years, opt out and become a free agent or opt out and negotiate a new deal to stay in Minnesota.

The public nature of this battle dampens the mood within the organization in a season that everyone has been waiting for for two decades.

The Timberwolves on the court look nothing like the error-prone teams that have littered their history since their singular run to the Western Conference Finals in 2004. They have a potential face of the league in Anthony Edwards , a rejuvenated NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Rudy Gobert, perhaps the most stable and accomplished pair of leaders they’ve ever had in Connelly and coach Chris Finch and sold all their tickets. home game this season.

The Timberwolves off the court look all too familiar right now. Dysfunctional, messy and drama-filled, an episode of “Game of Thrones” that threatens to distract from one of the best teams they’ve ever had. It began with Taylor’s public comments questioning Lore and Rodriguez’s level of involvement in the franchise, intensified when Lore and Rodriguez fought back, and continued this week with various reports on the tentacles of the franchise. situation.

This fight will not be won in the court of public opinion. It will be won in the calm of the mediation and/or arbitration rooms. Until that happens, the constant back and forth reflects poorly on the organization at such an important time in its history.

Even though Silver tries to stay out of the fray, he says this saga has taught the league what not to do.

“I think let’s wait and see how it goes. But it’s definitely not ideal to have a staggered transaction like this,” Silver said. “From that point of view, it’s within our rules, and that’s what Glen Taylor wanted and that’s what they were willing to accept at the time. But I think once the dust settles on this deal, it might cause us to re-evaluate what kind of transactions we should allow.

The team has the potential to play into June if all goes well. The struggle for ownership could last much longer.

(Photo by Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Edwards: David Berding/Getty Images)

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