Timberwolves and Lynx nearing sale to former baseball star Alex Rodriguez and e-commerce maven Marc Lore – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

The Minnesota Timberwolves will likely have new ownership in the near future, but that doesn’t mean the old regime is going anywhere anytime soon.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has signed an exclusive letter of intent regarding the purchase of the Timberwolves and Lynx franchises with former major league baseball star Alex Rodriguez and e-commerce maven Marc Lore, a team spokesperson confirmed Saturday.

ESPN and the Athletic were the first to report the deal.

Taylor and the Lore/Rodriguez team have reportedly agreed on a $1.5 billion valuation for the franchise, according to reports from ESPN and the Athletic. The two sides now enter a 30-day negotiating window.

Taylor was intrigued by Rodriguez’s sports background and Lore’s history in technology, which he thinks could help in areas such as ticketing.

“They just seemed to have the things that I was looking for,” Taylor said. “I enjoyed what they had to say, I believed in what they had to say, and it seems like, to me, to be ideal guys to put the franchise in their hands.”

Taylor said Rodriguez and Lore will be in Minneapolis on Monday and will receive a tour of the facilities and meet with team employees. After that, they’ll have 30 days to get the requisite paperwork together to send to the NBA. The league will go through that paperwork, and the hope is Rodriguez and Lore will then go before the Board of Governors for approval.

Taylor purchased the NBA franchise for $88 million in 1994 and added the WNBA’s Lynx in 1999.

Minnesota Timberwolves team owner Glen Taylor speaks in Minneapolis on June 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Taylor, who turns 80 on April 20, has waffled in the past over whether or not to sell the franchise, but this deal appears to be nearing the finish line.

“We look forward to entering this phase of the process with Glen Taylor. Our respect for him and the legacy he has built lays an amazing foundation for what is to come,” Rodriguez and Lore said in a statement to ESPN and the Athletic. “We are excited by the prospects of getting to know the Timberwolves organization, the talented team and their incredible fans.”

Taylor met with five potential buyer groups recently, and his communications with Rodriguez and Lore started just this past week. They instantly sold Taylor on their vision.

Taylor said he liked how they talked about working with and treating their employees, and he liked that they were sharp and competitive people.

Rodriguez retired from baseball in 2016 after recording 3,115 hits and 696 home runs in a career that began in 1994 — though those accomplishments were clouded in the minds of many by Rodriguez’s use of performance-enhancing drugs.

According to Spotrac, Rodriguez earned $437 million in career on-field earnings. Since retiring, Rodriguez has primarily worked in television, ranging from baseball analyst to guest judge on Shark Tank.

Lore has been the president and CEO of multiple e-commerce companies, ranging from Jet.com to Quidsi. Most recently, he was the president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce. He left that position on a full-time basis in January, though he still reportedly advises the company.

In January, Lore told CNBC his next venture included building a “city of the future” with a higher quality of life.

Jet.com CEO Marc Lore speaks during an interview in Hoboken, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“There’s an opportunity here to test a new model for society, and just like in typical startup fashion, doing it on a clean slate is the easiest way I know how to do it,” the New York native told CNBC. “Trying to make change in the country as it exists today would be much tougher.”

The team said the deal structure “will initially entail a limited partnership with a pathway to controlling ownership of the organization.”

Taylor also appreciated the offer to continue to run the team for the next couple of years before Rodriguez and Lore take control in 2023. From now until then, the two partners can learn under the Wolves’ current owner. Taylor can get them acclimated to working with the NBA, meeting other owners and attending meetings. They can also collaborate on ideas and go inside the process of running a sports organization before taking sole responsibility.

“I look forward to the opportunity to work with these people,” Taylor said. “I think it’s just going to be a joy to do it, and I’m excited about that. My internal feeling is one of happiness, because I love to teach, I love to work with people, and this is just another opportunity to work with fine people.”

Taylor said the team will remain in Minnesota.

“We’ll have that protected,” he said.

That was one of many things important to him in the process of finding the organization’s next ownership group.

“I’ve had it for so long, it kind of becomes your baby, and you want the caretakers to treat it as such,” Taylor said. “My feeling is really one of happiness. I just think this is going to work.”