Vikings owner says he's made no deal

Updated: February 19, 2004, 7:57 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- The men behind the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Wild are looking at joining forces in an attempt to buy the Minnesota Vikings if the team fails to win state approval for a new stadium this year, the Pioneer Press reported Thursday.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor told the newspaper on Wednesday that he and Wild chief executive Jac Sperling probably will unite in efforts to buy the NFL club and put together a successful stadium plan next year if the Vikings fail to obtain stadium financing this legislative session.

Vikings owner Red McCombs, in a statement issued Thursday, denied involvement.

"Contrary to published reports that I'm in discussions to sell the team," McCombs said, "there are no discussions with anyone regarding the sale of the Vikings. ... These reports pop up from time to time, and it's unfortunate that they do."

Taylor, a former Republican state senator, said the possibility of getting a stadium this session is a long shot.

"So if Red really does say, 'My gosh, I'm going to sell this team,' we'll be prepared to make an offer," Taylor said.

McCombs put the team up for sale in April 2002. Taylor said the asking price was $600 million. "Six hundred (million) is what you'd pay for a team that had a new stadium," Taylor said.

Forbes Magazine recently valued the team at $524 million.

The Vikings continue to work with JP Morgan Chase in New York, which McCombs retained to broker potential deals. There have been several inquires, including at least one California group that remains interested, according to the Pioneer Press.

The newspaper has reported that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue wants the Vikings to stay in Minnesota and McCombs would prefer a local buyer for the franchise he's owned since July 1998.

Taylor met Sperling in 1999 when Taylor signed a pact with Wild principal owner Robert Naegele Jr. to buy the Minnesota Twins. The deal was contingent on St. Paul voters approving a sales tax for a new ballpark, but the initiative was defeated at the polls.

Sperling has been Naegele's right-hand man, a renowned dealmaker who put together the plan for the Wild and the Xcel Energy Center. Before the Wild, Sperling was instrumental in the construction of Coors Field, the Denver home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team.

Forbes estimates Taylor's worth at $1.9 billion, ranking him the 104th-richest American. The Mankato billionaire made his fortune in the printing industry.

"About two or three months ago, Jac called and said he was doing stuff a little more independently from Naegele, and one of the things he was going to look at was buying the Vikings," Taylor said.

Taylor said he and Sperling have not yet formed a partnership but that he feels "comfortable that we probably will." Sperling had no comment about a possible deal.

"If you get the Vikings, you have to get a stadium," Taylor said. "It's something that Jac could be very helpful on. ... That's just a lot of effort."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press