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
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
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
"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
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.