The newest star in professional football is “six-foot-one and tons of fun.” And he’s a black man.
But despite having the size of a linebacker, Reggie Fowler, 46, won’t be taking the field when the National Football League’s season starts in September. He’ll likely be sitting in the owner’s box.
Fowler, a publicity-shy entrepreneur from Arizona, signed an agreement Feb. 14 to buy the Minnesota Vikings, a deal that will make him the first African American principal owner of an NFL team. Fowler appeared with current Vikings owner Red McCombs at a press conference to announce the deal, quipping about his height and enthusiasm for buying the team but disclosing few important details about the sale.
Neither man disclosed the purchase price of the deal, though news reports put its value at $625 million. Fowler also didn’t disclose his personal net worth and didn’t immediately reveal the identities of his limited partners, New York real estate developers Alan B. Landis, Zygmunt Wilf, and David Mandelbaum.
These details will all be hugely important factors in whether the required 24 out of 32 NFL team owners will vote to approve the deal. The NFL owners will be looking at Fowler and his partners under a microscope between now and the time the deal is finalized, one black former NFL player told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“They’re going to check him out, that’s for sure,” said Deron Cherry, a former six-time All-Pro safety for the Kansas City Chiefs and current minority stakeholder in the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The NFL requires the principal owner of a team to put up at least 30% of its purchase price, making Fowler personally responsible for more than $180 million if published estimates are accurate. Beyond that, he could tap a league loan fund for up to $125 million and look for other means of financing.
“We would not be here today if we didn’t have the ability to make the deal,” Fowler said in response to questions about his financial means.
Fowler made his fortune, which The Arizona Republic reported at upward of $400 million, running Spiral Inc. (No. 11 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $314 million in sales). The Chandler, Arizona, firm sells supplies to grocery store chains and also has dealings in real estate and aviation.
Beyond confirming how much cash Fowler brings to the table, the league will do credit checks and dig for evidence to assure that Fowler and his partners are scrupulous businessmen who aren’t prone to the bad-boy antics of some of the league’s star athletes, Cherry said.
“They’ll have somebody in league security to see if your dealings are above board. The league has a certain standard they have to live up to,” he said.
If Fowler passes mettle and gets into the tight fraternity of pro-sports owners, he’ll also be part of an even more exclusive club: black majority owners of major league teams. Only Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and majority owner of the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Bobcats, currently holds that title. Along with Jacksonville’s