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Taylor Eyes Possible Vikes Move

Four months ago Glen Taylor stayed out of the bidding for the Minnesota Vikings because he was confident there was a would-be owner committed to keeping the team where it has been since 1961.

He doesn't sense that same commitment now that the Vikings are back on the market.

Taylor, the self-made billionaire from rural Minnesota who bought the NBA Timberwolves when a move seemed possible four years ago, now is considering making an offer to buy the state's NFL franchise.

He said Saturday that one of the main reasons he might get involved is a perception that, without him, the bidding process might lack someone whose primary goal is keeping the team in Minnesota.

"That's why I'm interested in pursuing this," he said from his Taylor Corp. headquarters in North Mankato. "The first time I was confident that there was a bidder who was interested in keeping the team in Minnesota. The second time it appears that there is some concern."

Author Tom Clancy was the buyer Taylor believed was committed to keeping the team in place during the last round of bids. Clancy's $200 million offer was accepted in February over offers from Vikings president Roger Headrick and San Antonio businessman Red McCombs.

But Clancy's bid fell apart last month because of his inability to come up with enough cash to meet the NFL's mandate that each team have a majority owner with at least 30 percent interest (the Vikings currently have 10 owners with equal shares, including Headrick).

Headrick and McCombs both appear ready to get back into the bidding, and Twins owner Carl Pohlad also is believed to be considering an offer. The price has been set at at least $200 million, but the playing field won't be official until July 1.

That's the date the owners have set as a deadline. They hope to have the sale approved in time for the July 28 owners meetings in Dallas.

As was the case in February, when he muddied the sale process with an unsuccessful attempt to assert his right to match Clancy's bid, Headrick appears to be perceived as an unsavory candidate.

He has become alienated from the other nine owners, and he believes one or more of them solicited Taylor this time around. Headrick's new offer might include Bob McNair, one of two prominent Houston businessman who are ready to get involved in the Vikings purchase while also trying to bring an NFL franchise back to their city.

Les Alexander, owner of the NBA Houston Rockets, would be part of Taylor's bid.

Headrick also said Saturday that he has had discussions with people in Los Angeles. He wouldn't reveal the nature of those conversations, but that contact could be considered an ominous sign because that market is without an NFL team.

But Headrick, who is the head of the influential NFL Properties executive committee and has close ties to commissioner aul Tagliabue, asserted that he is not interested in moving the team.

"There's never been any attempt on my part to say I want to move the team," he said. "And I've never given (the other owners) any indication that I would do that, either."

Headrick and Taylor both are taking the same tact on questions regarding the Houston angle to their potential bids: That McNair and Alexander simply want to make inroads with NFL owners in case an expansion franchise is awarded to Houston.

"As a Minnesotan, I'm as concerned (about the Vikings moving) as anyone else," Taylor said. "I've discussed that with Les Alexander, and that's not the reason he wants to be here."

Taylor said he has made arrangements to buy out Alexander's share, and said Alexander considered a stake in the Vikings simply a good business investment. Speaking hypothetically, Taylor said Alexander could use profits from the sale of his share of the Vikings to help buy an expansion franchise.

Alexander would not have a right of first refusal if Taylor ever decided to sell, Taylor said. Alexander had that provision when he was involved with Clancy's bid.

Taylor also said that if he makes a bid it would not be inflated to assure that he would win out over others who might want to move the Vikings.

"I'm hoping that this isn't just a money deal," Taylor said. "I can't get into making a goofy bid just because someone else makes one. I don't think the owners are going to want to get themselves into a situation that's going to be embarrassing for them."

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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