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Monday, January 14
Watkins' goal: owning Twins within 6-8 months

Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Alabama businessman Donald V. Watkins made his initial contact with the Minnesota Twins on Monday, starting a process that could make him the first black controlling owner of a major league team within months.

Watkins said he and Twins president Jerry Bell discussed procedures and a schedule for his pursuit of the team, which is in danger of folding through contraction.

"It was a very positive discussion," said Watkins, who met with baseball officials last week. "They were expecting my call."

Bell did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Monday.

Watkins said he wants to meet soon with Twins owner Carl Pohlad, and it will take at least 60 days for Watkins and aides to go through the team's finances.

Watkins said he hopes to negotiate a deal and have Major League Baseball's approval within six to eight months. Watkins said a change of ownership would save the team from being eliminated through contraction.

Published reports have given wide estimates of the franchise's value, varying from $99 million to $150 million. Watkins said he won't know how much the team is really worth until he looks at its books.

"There are formulas for determining values, even for sports teams," he said. "There are lots of factors that go in that are not public record."

Watkins, 53, plans to pay cash for the Twins and finance construction of a ballpark through private investors in Europe and the South Pacific. He estimates the cost of a new stadium at $350 million.

Watkins has refused to detail his finances publicly, providing only broad outlines of his wealth.

Watkins, who also is an attorney, earned more than $10 million representing the cities of Birmingham and Montgomery. But he said most of his money came from investment.

Watkins said energy investments he negotiated in 1996 were valued at between $500 million and $600 million. Watkins said Monday he actually put "substantially less" than that into the deal, but he wouldn't say how much.

The Twins' fate may also depend on the outcome of a court case involving the team and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which operates the Metrodome. The MSFC obtained an injunction compelling the team to play its 2002 games in the Metrodome, and a decision on the Twins' appeal is pending at the state Court of Appeals.

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