Vikings Go to NFL's First Black Owner

Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler (search) agreed to buy the Minnesota Vikings (search) in a deal that would make him the NFL's first black owner.

Fowler declined to say how much he would pay for the team, which announced the sale Monday. Published reports and a rival bidder, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, put the price at about $625 million.

Owner Red McCombs had the team on the block since 2002. Taylor had offered about $600 million, though some of that money was contingent on a new stadium being built. If the league approves the deal, McCombs will make a huge profit — he paid $246 million for the team in 1998.

NFL owners are to meet in March in Hawaii. League rules require 24 of the 32 owners to approve a sale. The NFL also mandates that a general partner must put down 30 percent of the cash portion of any franchise purchase.

Fowler brushed aside questions about pressing for a new stadium and rejected any thought of moving the team.

"We want to focus today on just acquiring the team," he said at a news conference.

Fowler's ownership group faces the same problem that McCombs did: The Metrodome doesn't generate as much revenue as other NFL (search) stadiums.

Opposition to a publicly funded stadium has been strong. And with the Vikings' Metrodome lease running through 2011, the Minnesota Twins and University of Minnesota football team are thought to be higher priorities.

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson said Monday that Taylor, a former state legislator, would have had a better shot at money for a stadium.

"Fowler would have to start in first grade," Johnson said before the deal was announced.

Fowler is a former University of Wyoming football player. He now owns Spiral Inc., a company that supplies grocery stores with bags, cups, containers, labels and janitorial supplies. The Arizona Republic reported Saturday that Fowler's personal net worth is estimated at more than $400 million — far less than Taylor's $1.9 billion.

A survey of NFL team values by Forbes magazine last fall estimated the Vikings worth at about $604 million.

As for the purchase, Fowler could borrow up to $125 million from the NFL's own leaguewide credit consortium. If the purchase price is near the reported $625 million, that would leave a balance of $500 million; Fowler's share of that would be about $150 million.

Fowler sidestepped questions about his personal worth and ability to pull off the deal.

"My kids think I'm worth a lot," he said.

During McCombs' run, the Vikings have sold out every home game and made the playoffs four times in seven seasons — twice advancing to the NFC championship game. But his popularity waned as he pushed harder for a new stadium, especially when he talked about moving the team to Los Angeles.

The Vikings spent five years pushing for a new stadium to be built in part with public money, before recently deciding to scale back their lobbying effort in the current legislative session. Because dozens of other clubs have either opened new stadiums or refurbished existing structures since his 1998 purchase, McCombs said the Vikings couldn't generate enough revenue in the 22-year-old Metrodome to compete.