MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Memphis Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan's pursuit of a new role in the ownership group of the Minnesota Timberwolves has hit a wall, two people with knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Kaplan and partner Handy Soetedjo met with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor before the game against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night to talk about the status of a process that began about four months ago.
The two have been spearheading a group trying to acquire 30 percent of the Timberwolves, with the possibility of taking over majority ownership from Taylor down the road. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.
But Kaplan owns a significant stake in the Grizzlies along with Robert Pera and others, which has complicated his ability to divest himself from Memphis.
League rules prohibit ownership stakes in two teams. So Kaplan's inability to remove himself from Memphis has prevented a Minnesota deal to this point. Neither person involved in the discussions would say the deal was dead, but both acknowledged that Kaplan's exit from Memphis has been more complex than expected.
Taylor has long been in search of a person or group willing to buy in to a minority share of the Timberwolves, sit by his side for a few years and then eventually take over the team. After having difficulty finding anyone open to riding shotgun first, Taylor opened discussions with Kaplan in November.
Kaplan was in the bidding to acquire the Atlanta Hawks last year, but was outbid by Tony Ressler's group, and had been very enthusiastic about getting involved with a Timberwolves team stocked with young talent and equipped with a shiny new practice facility and renovations to its arena scheduled to begin this summer.
Soetedjo is an Indonesian coal magnate who was among the initial investors in a group that bought the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011. He also is part of the ownership group that bought 70 percent of the Inter Milan soccer team in 2013.
Talks centered around a plan to purchase 30 percent of the Timberwolves by the end of this season and then, an unspecified time later, purchasing a majority share when Taylor was ready to relinquish full control. Taylor and Kaplan built a mutual respect during the negotiations, but with no quick fix to Kaplan's situation readily apparent, discussions have stalled.
With a deal of this scale, there can always be stops and starts, hurdles and roadblocks. So there remains the possibility that the issues can be resolved and things can move forward. But what was certain after the meeting on Wednesday night was that the timeline would not be as prompt as both sides hoped when talks began in earnest in November.
The standstill could have ramifications in Minnesota. Both sides were hoping to complete a deal before the end of the season to allow Kaplan to come aboard and give input into several major decisions facing the franchise. Two of the biggest are the fates of GM Milt Newton and coach Sam Mitchell, both of whom are essentially working on an interim basis after taking over for Flip Saunders, who was both president of basketball operations and coach before he died in October from Hodgkin's lymphoma.