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FOOTBALL Sale of Vikings could break new NFL ground



Published: Tue, February 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Reggie Fowler would become the league's first African-American owner.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler agreed to buy the Minnesota Vikings in a deal that would make him the NFL's first black owner.

Fowler declined to say how much he would pay for the team. Published reports and a rival bidder, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, put the price at about $625 million.

Owner Red McCombs had the team on the block since 2002. Taylor had offered about $600 million, though some of that money was contingent on a new stadium being built. If the league approves the deal, McCombs will make a huge profit -- he paid $246 million for the team in 1998.

Asked about becoming the league's first black owner, Fowler said Monday in a seeming contradiction that he thought it was "a great thing" and not that big a thing. He said race didn't figure in negotiations with McCombs.

"He did not discount the price because of that," Fowler said, laughing.

NFL owners are to meet March 20-23 in Hawaii. League rules require 24 of the 32 owners to approve a sale. The NFL also mandates that a general partner must put down 30 percent of the cash portion of any franchise purchase.

The league said Fowler met Saturday with commissioner Paul Tagliabue and will meet with the league's finance committee in Florida on March 9-10. The committee's report will then go to all the owners, who could vote during the Hawaii meetings.

New owner, same problems

Fowler's ownership group -- he said he had three limited partners -- faces the same problem that McCombs did: the Metrodome doesn't generate as much revenue as other NFL stadiums.

Fowler brushed aside questions about pressing for a new stadium and rejected any thought of moving the team.

"We want to focus today on just acquiring the team," he said at a news conference.

Opposition to a publicly funded stadium has been strong. And with the Vikings' Metrodome lease running through 2011, the Minnesota Twins and University of Minnesota football team are thought to be higher priorities with the Legislature.

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson said Monday that Taylor, a former state legislator, would have had a better shot at money for a stadium.

"Fowler would have to start in first grade," Johnson said before the deal was announced.

Fowler is a former University of Wyoming football player. He now owns Spiral Inc., a company that supplies grocery stores with bags, cups, containers, labels and janitorial supplies. The Arizona Republic reported Saturday that Fowler's personal net worth is estimated at more than $400 million -- far less than Taylor's $1.9 billion.

A survey of NFL team values by Forbes magazine last fall estimated the Vikings worth at about $604 million.

As for the purchase, Fowler could borrow up to $125 million from the NFL's own leaguewide credit consortium. If the purchase price is near the reported $625 million, that would leave a balance of $500 million; Fowler's share of that would be about $150 million.

Fowler sidestepped questions about his personal worth and ability to pull off the deal.

"My kids think I'm worth a lot," he said.




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