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Relocation plan? Complaint on Wolves’ sale makes it clear franchise could be moved

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FILE – In this June 6, 2014, file photo, Minnesota Timberwolves team owner Glen Taylor speaks in Minneapolis. Neal Justin, co-chair of the StarTribune Guild, said Taylor has employed a hands-off approach since he bought the StarTribune, in Minneapolis, in 2014 and has brought stability to a publication that went through a series of owners that included a huge media company and a hedge fund. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt, File)

Glen Taylor has been insistent that part of his agreement to sell the Timberwolves to Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore will include a provision that the team will not be moved from Minnesota. However, it turns out that might not be the case after all.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on Wednesday revealed that Taylor included no provision in the $1.5 billion sales agreement that will require the new owners to keep the team in Minnesota. That revelation came in an ESPN story that Meyer Orbach, the Wolves’ second-largest shareholder, filed the complaint alleging Taylor’s sale to Rodriguez and Lore violates the franchise’s partnership agreement.

The issue, according to the complaint, is that Taylor did not honor a clause in his agreement with Wolves’ minority investors that allows them to sell their interest in the teams before Taylor sells his. The sale also includes the Minnesota Lynx.

News of the Wolves and Lynx sale to Lore, the former president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, and Rodriguez, a former big-league star with the Mariners, Rangers and Yankees, raised immediate questions about whether they would attempt to move the franchise once the NBA approved the sale. Taylor had been quick to dispel those fears.

But, according to ESPN, an exhibit in the complaint filed by Orbach makes it clear there are no contractual limitations that will keep Lore and Rodriguez from calling in the movers.

The NBA Board of Governors will be required to give final approval of the Wolves’ sale. Taylor had said he will run the Wolves for two more seasons, as Rodriguez and Lore are expected to buy the team in installments, according to ESPN. They would take over a controlling stake for 2023-24.

The Wolves do have a lease at the Target Center that runs through 2035, but there is a $50 million buyout. That would be a small price to pay, if Rodriguez and Lore were going to relocate. Seattle and Las Vegas are both considered prime spots for relocation, but the NBA is believed to be eyeing both of those cities for expansion. That would bring in huge bucks for NBA owners.

However, that wouldn’t stop Rodriguez and Lore from trying to move the team to one of those cities, or possibly somewhere else.