MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Marv Wolfenson, one of the two businessmen who brought the NBA back to Minnesota, died Saturday. He was 87.
Wolfenson died in La Jolla, Calif., Timberwolves spokesman Brad Ruiter told The Associated Press on Saturday. He did not know any other details.
The Star Tribune reports that Wolfenson died Saturday morning.
Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner were the Timberwolves original owners when the NBA granted them and Minnesota an expansion franchise that began play in 1989. They also owned a series of Twin Cities health clubs.
The team released a statement Saturday, saying the organization was deeply saddened.
“Marv will long be remembered by our organization as not only an original owner of the franchise, but more importantly a mentor, friend, and incredible businessman who helped us all establish the Wolves in this market,” the statement said.
Ratner died in 2006.
The pair were known as “Harv and Marv,” working together for nearly five decades while managing their collection of apartment complexes and health and fitness facilities.
The Timberwolves marked the NBA’s return to Minnesota after an absence that began when the Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960.
One of four expansion franchises spawned by the league in 1987, the Wolves were bought for $32.5 million and began playing in the Metrodome in 1989.
The following season, they went to the other end of downtown into a new arena, Target Center, which was funded by Ratner and Wolfenson.
Their ownership was ultimately unsuccessful, ending in debt after five mostly miserable seasons on the court. Minnesota went 105-305 during that time and the franchise was sold to a group of investors in New Orleans in May 1994. The league blocked the sale a month later.
Glen Taylor, a printing magnate and former state senator, wound up finalizing his purchase of the team in March 1995 with his limited partners for $88.5 million after a messy transition that included a widely criticized, publicly funded takeover of Target Center.
Ratner and Wolfenson eventually sold most of the rest of their holdings, including the chain of Northwest Athletic Clubs in 1997. But they were regulars at Timberwolves home games, as the team finally found a way to win and made eight straight playoff appearances from 1997-2004.
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