Report: Fowler has been sued over 36 times

MINNEAPOLIS -- When it sits down March 9 and 10, the NFL
Finance Committee will take its first hard look at the career and
business dealings of would-be Minnesota Vikings owner Reggie Fowler.

And when it does, the Star Tribune reported Sunday, league
officials might find:

  • Fowler or his businesses have been sued more than three dozen
    times in the Phoenix and Denver areas in a variety of disputes over
    the past 15 years, according to a search of court records by the

  • He has borrowed heavily against several of his commercial
    properties in the Phoenix area.

  • He is the landlord of a business owner who was involved in a
    college basketball point-shaving scam many years ago.

  • His divorce records are sealed in Arizona's Maricopa County

    "The NFL will want to verify that the prospective owner is
    strong enough financially so the team will have some stability,"
    said Andy Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in
    Northampton, Mass. "His entire business career will be laid

    In appearances before reporters last week, Fowler declined to
    disclose his net worth -- meaning his total assets minus his debt --
    but insisted he has the wherewithal to complete the purchase from
    current owner Red McCombs. They haven't disclosed the sale price,
    but reports have put the figure at $625 million.

    When the NFL analyzes Fowler's ability to come up with $150
    million -- the 30 percent share he would need to put up as general
    partner under NFL rules -- it will "almost certainly" look at his
    net worth, Zimbalist told the newspaper.

    Fowler formed his main company, Spiral Inc., of Chandler, Ariz.,
    in 1989. Its holdings include a flight-simulator manufacturer in
    Centennial, Colo.; a cattle ranch in Haxtun, Colo.; a real estate
    development company in Chandler; a manufacturer of foam trays for
    supermarkets in Denver, and a children's indoor playground in

    The Star Tribune reported that according to Thomson Gale, a
    business information service, Spiral generated $314 million in
    revenue in 2003. However, Thomson Gale told the Star Tribune it got
    that figure through a telephone call to Spiral and not from actual
    financial reports.

    Fowler would neither confirm nor deny that number, the Star
    Tribune reported.

    In addition to Spiral, Fowler has said he owns $300 million in
    real estate in Arizona and Colorado.

    The Star Tribune said Fowler, like most real estate developers,
    borrows against some of the property he buys or owns.

    In 1998, the newspaper said, Fowler paid $2.2 million in cash
    for 400,000 square feet of vacant land in Chandler, which turned
    into a strip mall and the site of Makutu's Island, an indoor
    playground for children. A year after the purchase, he obtained a
    $3 million mortgage on the property, according to Maricopa County
    records checked by the newspaper.

    Not far from his strip mall, Fowler also purchased two lots for
    about $100,000 each. The newspaper said records show that Fowler
    used those lots as collateral to obtain a $1.175 million mortgage.

    The Star Tribune said one of Fowler's smallest business
    interests -- his 20 percent stake in four "Shammy Man" car washes
    in the Phoenix area -- could raise eyebrows among other NFL owners,
    who zealously guard the league's image.

    One of Fowler's partners in the car washes, the newspaper said,
    is Joseph Gagliano. In 1999, the report said, Gagliano served time
    in federal prison for being involved in a college basketball
    point-shaving scandal at Arizona State University.

    Fowler owns the land under the car wash, the Star Tribune said,
    and his lawyer, Kevin Warren, told the newspaper the two men have a
    tenant-landlord relationship.

    "I'm not a criminal," Fowler told the Star Tribune. "What
    (Gagliano) did at Arizona State is not what I do. He's been a good

    Fowler said he plans to sell the land on which the car washes
    sit because he plans to move to Minnesota and focus on the Vikings.

    The Star Tribune also reported that many of the more than three
    dozen lawsuits in Arizona and Colorado involving Fowler or his
    companies involved allegations of unpaid bulls. It said many of the
    claims were for small amounts, typically less than $20,000, though
    a few were for more than $100,000.

    Fowler said he did not consider the number of lawsuits abnormal,
    given the extent of his ventures.

    "We have several companies, and we have thousands of
    transactions that go through our companies each day," he told the
    newspaper. "So as the normal course of business, this does

    As of Friday, Fowler told the paper, he had only three judgments
    against him totaling $35,000 and three lawsuits still pending in
    the courts.

    But the Star Tribune quoted one legal expert as saying the
    number of nonpayment claims could cause the NFL to question
    Fowler's reliability.

    "For a company with several hundreds of millions of dollars in
    revenues, it is surprising to see this many nonpayment claims,"
    said Todd Wind, a partner in the litigation department at the
    Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron. "After all, they need
    people to do business with them."