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
Fowler would neither confirm nor deny that number, the Star
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
"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
But the Star Tribune quoted one legal expert as saying the
number of nonpayment claims could cause the NFL to question
"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."