Is It Time for McCombs to Sell?

With the fears of Red McCombs relocating the Vikings to Los Angeles all but gone in the short term and the odds of getting a new stadium deal wallowing again in the State Legislature, it may be time for McCombs to sell the team and see if a new ownership group can get a stadium finance bill passed.

Red McCombs' history as a sports owner has been one of buying a team when they are in desperate shape at a low price and waiting until they regain their value and selling them for a profit. It's been his M.O. before joining the Vikings and, while he seems more committed to this venture than previous forays into the NBA, it remains his signature move.

When he bought the Vikings, it was a similar situation. Ten owners who couldn't agree that the sun rises in the east were turned on their ear by Denny Green's biography, which, for some unexplained reason, ended with documentation on how and an unnamed group would buy the team – whether by hostile takeover or a mutual agreement. You had to give Green credit. After years of cost-cutting and scrimping by a bunch of millionaires, the group put the team up for sale.

Author Tom Clancy looked to be the next owner. With a Marlboro never far from his lips, Clancy seemed an odd choice to be leading an ownership group. Odd turned to downright strange when it was learned Clancy was going through a divorce. His legal team was divided – one lawyer claiming he had more than enough money to buy the team and his divorce lawyer crying poverty prior to a settlement. Enter McCombs, stage left.

With his bluster and mantra of "Purple Pride," McCombs brought an enthusiasm back to the team. But it was an enthusiasm tempered by the fear that he intended to move the team to his native San Antonio or Los Angeles. Since then, he has learned that the agreement between the State Legislature and the NFL effectively locked him into Minnesota and the Metrodome through 2011.

As each turn has come up with legislators, it has become more apparent that the Vikings aren't a major concern to the state – at least to the point that it is unwilling to let a billionaire feed from the public trough when it comes to building a new stadium. And the idea has hit McCombs that Glen Taylor, the owner of the Timberwolves, may be the best chance the Vikings have of getting a stadium in the near future.

The current problem is estimating the value of the franchise. When McCombs bought the team in 1998, he spent $245 million. That price has doubled in the six years since – a tidy profit that fit into McCombs' history with buying and selling franchises. But, McCombs, as recently as this week in San Antonio, said he would be willing to sell the team at "market value." According to McCombs, market value is somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 million, not the $450 million that Taylor and others have indicated is a more accurate value.

It's clear McCombs is not going to take the lead on building his own stadium and monopolizing every dime that comes through the gates. He's insistent that the state and local governments should pick up at least half the cost of a new stadium. Is that realistic? Probably not, considering the volatile economic climate that exists right now.

Maybe it's time for McCombs to take a long look at what the value of the franchise is to him. He's stepped up and made sure that his star players have been signed to lucrative, long-term deals. But, the animosity toward him from key legislators, who believe he is holding the state hostage for a sweetheart deal on a new stadium, may never give in to his demands.

McCombs and the Vikings have kept the fan interest high since he took over and he hasn't lost the money that some have claimed. He's made a profit on the team even with a horrible stadium with extremely limited revenue streams. An extra $250 million above and beyond what he paid for the team could go a long way to healing some of his wounds about being an outsider. Maybe it's time for Red to go back to San Antonio with several more million dollars in his bank account and see if a Minnesotan can get a stadium deal done. While McCombs has been great for the franchise in general, maybe it's time he step aside for his own good and the good of the franchise. His attempts to get a new stadium have failed and it doesn't look like future attempts are going to be successful either. It's a tough call to make, but one that may have to be made sooner than later.

Viking Update Top Stories