Sunday, July 3, 2016

Even the Minnesota Timberwolves are worth $1 billion now

Even the Minnesota Timberwolves are worth $1 billion now

Eric Freeman 
Ball Don't Lie
View photo
.
Glen Taylor's team hasn't made the postseason since 2004, but it's still worth a whole lot. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Glen Taylor's team hasn't made the postseason since 2004, but it's still worth a whole lot. (Alex Trautwig/Getty …

It's now well established that any NBA franchise, no matter the success of the team on the court or the size of the market, is worth a lot of money. The $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers in August 2014 set a new standard, and the $850 million sale of the never-super-popular Atlanta Hawks in April 2015 indicated that such figures wouldn't only apply to major-market clubs.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
The recent sale of a minority share of a smaller-market team suggests that NBA franchise valuations are either in a bubble or so high that the league is in some kind of golden age. According to a report from Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, the sale of five-percent of the Minnesota Timberwolves to a Chinese businessman — the league's first owner from the basketball-mad nation — values the franchise at $1 billion:
Last week [longtime Wolves owner Glen] Taylor closed a deal to bring in Lizhang Jiang, a Shanghai-based businessman. Jiang, who founded Chinese marketing company Double-Edge Sports, previously worked with the NBA in China. Earlier this month, Jiang, 35, completed the purchase of Spanish soccer club Granada CF. Lanxiong Sports of China reported that Jiang purchased 5 percent of the Wolves and 5 percent of the Minnesota Lynx.


 In addition, Taylor has sold a share of the team to Meyer Orbach, a New York-based real estate magnate. [...]
At least twice in the past five years, Taylor has put the Wolves on the market only to later back off and decide to keep the team. This minority-share investment adds stability to Taylor's position. League sources indicate the team is worth about $1 billion.
As Windhorst notes, the sales to Jiang and Orbach end a long period of uncertainty for the Wolves. Taylor had put the team (or portions of it) up for sale several times in the last few years and appeared close to a deal with Memphis Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan last fall. Those negotiations fell through, though, which opened the door for Jiang and Orbach. The former would seem to offer the Wolves a chance to become more popular in China, particularly as they attempt to ride their young core into the ranks of the West's best teams.
Despite the optimism surrounding the franchise's future, this valuation comes as a surprise. Forbes listed Minnesota's franchise value at $720 million in its annual rankings this February, a strong number that nevertheless put the Wolves at 27th among the NBA's 30 teams. That extra $280 million represents a 38.8 percent increase in value in under six months. While those Forbes figures are primarily estimated valuations, that Wolves sale price suggests that plenty of the world's wealthiest people are willing to pay a premium to buy even a small portion of an NBA franchise.
That is obviously good news for the league's existing owners, because they can likely sell all or a portion of the team whenever they want or need some extra money. However, it could put them in a difficult position when the Board of Governors and the NBPA discuss the terms of the next collective bargaining agreement, which could come in 2017 if either side chooses to end the current one by the February opt-out deadline. The owners won considerable concessions from players in the 2011 lockout by claiming that they were necessary to keep the league viable, but that same argument should be tougher if franchise valuations remain near the $1 billion mark for teams that haven't made the postseason since 2004. Expect the players' union to make a considerable effort to get back some of what they gave up five years ago.