Carl Pohlad, the billionaire banker who owns the Minnesota Twins, says he's tired of covering $10 million to $12 million in losses each year. If the state legislature doesn't approve a $400 million publicly financed ballpark, Pohlad says that he'll accept an offer to sell the team to investors who would move the Twins to North Carolina (BW--Apr. 7).
If the Twins migrate, it will be the first time a Major League club has relocated since the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers in 1972. But the North Carolina group headed by Don Beaver, who owns 10% of the Pittsburgh Pirates and five minor league clubs, appears to have significant support among the Lords of Baseball. And in Minnesota, where the legislature has had trouble even crafting a stadium-financing bill to vote on, the thought of throwing tax dollars at Pohlad to keep the cellar-dwelling Twins in town gets blood boiling. In fact, a recent poll shows overwhelming opposition to publicly financing a new ballpark. "Wherever I am, on the street, at the store, they're yelling at me, `Don't give in to those billionaires,"' says State Representative Kris Hasskamp.
Pohlad bought the Twins in 1984 for $36 million and bagged World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. But the team just finished its fifth-straight losing season, and attendance has cratered since then. Pohlad says he can't buy better players because he gets no cut of Metrodome parking, concessions, and stadium advertising.
Pohlad, 82, swears he doesn't want to sell: "No one wants to keep baseball in Minnesota more than I do." But on Oct. 3, he signed a letter of intent to sell the club to Beaver for an estimated $130 million to $150 million.
The Twins candidly concede that the agreement was designed to force the issue--to get Minnesota to follow other states that have found the money to retain home teams. "We've been told that nothing will happen until we get to the edge of the cliff," says Twins President Jerry Bell. "We're at the edge of the cliff."
If the legislature can't come up with a deal for Pohlad by Nov. 30, the sale to Beaver goes forward--pending approval by Major League Baseball. Beaver would keep the club in Minneapolis for a year and then move to North Carolina, leaving behind the first city to say "Enough!" to baseball's demanding owners.