Legislators propose 75 percent public ownership of Twins

by Justin Ware

The fate of the Twins could soon be in the hands of the team’s biggest fans if two Minnesota legislators have their way.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, brought a plan before the Legislature last week calling for 75 percent public ownership of the Twins through stock sales.

“This is a market test of what the Twins really mean to the community,” Kahn said.

If half of the 150,000 people who signed the petition presented to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig purchased stock in the team, that would be enough to cover the amount needed for community ownership, she said.

According to the plan, one-third of the stockowners would have to purchase stock in the range of $1,000 per share with the rest of the stock selling at $100 per share.

Those with more expensive shares would retain full voting rights in the team’s operations. Those with $100 shares would only vote on issues related to relocation of the team – an aspect of the plan Kahn said would make moving the Twins from Minnesota highly unlikely.

Anderson said she doesn’t think the state will have any trouble finding enough people willing to buy stock to save the team.

“(Local businesses) really have the most to lose or the most to win,” she said.

Anderson said she believed the prestige of ownership and voting rights would entice the necessary number of businesses and corporations to buy the more expensive shares.

She said finding the 25 percent private managing portion would be the most difficult part of the plan with the current absence of a new stadium.

The managing portion would not include stock ownership and would involve private investors such as the Pohlad family.

Anderson said the managing owner would be responsible for handling losses.

But the risk of loss is one reason skeptics say the plan might not work.

“Do (the owners of the team) want to share in the risk?” asked Stadium Task Force Co-chairman William Haddeland.

Dean Barkley, a task force member and director for the state’s Office of Strategic and Long-Range Planing, said MLB might stop the plan before it has a chance to succeed.

“I don’t think it’s important what the state thinks,” Barkley said. “It’s important what MLB says.”

Barkley said baseball rules prohibit teams to be run without a majority owner, disallowing the plan to sell 75 percent of the team to multiple shareholders.

Kahn said the possibility of MLB not allowing the bill to pass would be an advantage to those who wish to keep the team in the state.

She said public ownership is something federal lawmakers would support. If MLB opposed the measure, Kahn said, it would cause another strike against the league in anti-trust hearings.

Kahn and Anderson, along with task force members, said they understand changes need to be made in baseball and to the Twins before any talks of ownership or stadiums take place. But they said giving the team to the people of Minnesota is a step in the right direction.

Justin Ware welcomes comments at [email protected]