That’s the report from John Vomhof Jr. of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal:
Taylor Corp. and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is close to a deal to buy the Star Tribune, according to a local report that cites unidentified “people in the know.”
Business Take, a daily business newsletter published by Blois Olson of Fluence Media, reports that Taylor “has intensified negotiations recently” and one source suggested that there is already “an agreement in principle.” Currently, Wayzata private equity firm Wayzata Investment Partners is the newspaper’s majority owner.
I mention this only because it seems to be an increasing trend, and a reversal in local institutional power: Newspapers — once the most profitable, established force in many American cities — seem to be the subject of increasing interest to the owners of major sports teams.
Here in Boston, of course, the Globe is now owned by Red Sox owner John Henry. In my home state of Louisiana, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson tried (and failed) to buy The Times-Picayune. L.A. Dodgers owner Mark Walter has expressed interest in buying the L.A. Times.
I’m sure there are other owners who — sitting on billion-dollar properties and seeing their local daily valued in the tens of millions — have at least thought about flipping over the couch cushions and seeing if they can scrounge up a down payment.
It used to be more common the other way around, media companies buying up or starting sports teams — think Tribune with the Cubs, Turner with the Braves, News Corp. with the Dodgers, Disney with the Mighty Ducks. And that still happens sometimes with broadcast companies or diversified media corporations. Consider this paragraph from a 1999 AJR story and think how foreign that world seems today:
The Dallas Morning News [buying a small share of the Dallas] Mavericks join a club packed with some of the biggest names in the business. Most notably, the Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago Tribune, has owned the Chicago Cubs for nearly two decades. The parent company of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette bought a minority share of the Pittsburgh Pirates to help keep the team in town. The Cincinnati Enquirer is linked with the Reds since parent Gannett has a small interest in the team. Ted Turner’s media empire, now a division of Time Warner, owns parts of baseball’s Atlanta Braves, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers.
For what it’s worth, the Star Tribune (two Pulitzers last year) has had a better season than the Timberwolves (headed to the lottery and prompting sad videos like this one).
Photo of the Timberwolves by Doug Wallick
used under a Creative Commons license.
— Joshua Benton