Phoenix Businessman Could Buy Vikes But Adversaries Are Already Attacking Idea

By Gregory Moore
Updated: January 25, 2005

Reggie Fowler SAN ANTONIO,TX— —Reggie Fowler wants to buy the Minnesota Vikings for a reported $542 million and the Phoenix, AZ businessman thinks he can convince the NFL finance committee that he has the means necessary to keep the franchise afloat for some time. Fowler’s company, Spiral, Inc., has fifty employees and grossed sales of $248 million in 2004 in the Black Enterprise B.E. 100 for Industrial. He has been in business since 1989. So what’s the problem? Why are there adversaries not wanting this African American who seems to have found a way to become successful in his craft? Why are there so many nay Sayers when Fowler has even tapped a Twin Cities automotive dealer as his ‘minority’ partner? Try that many are looking at his financials.

McCombs wants between $500 – $600 million and he wants the deal done in the next couple of weeks. Well that may be a huge problem considering the finance committee in the league needs the vetting that. You are talking about getting 31 owners to approve a deal from someone who is not really well known in the sports circles. It’s not impossible but what we are talking about is the first African American business owner to be a majority owner of an NFL franchise so you better believe that there are sharks out trying to smell blood. In doing a search on Spiral, Inc., I have come across numerous stories about Fowler wanting to buy the Vikings but I had to dig a little deeper and spend some money to find out if the sharks out to derail his conquest had a reason to be skeptical. In my brief investigation for this week’s article, I did find that there is some merit to the fears of some Viking supporters and would definitely make the league’s owners be skeptical.

Without divulging too much of Fowler’s assets and liabilities since it is a privately held company, what I was able to find out was that according to a September 1, 2004 article that appeared in the Arizona Daily Republic, Fowler’s company has been sued some nineteen times between 1998 and 2004. In 1992 the company’s revenue was $12.3 million. In 2003, that revenue was a whopping $314 million. The combined lawsuits in the date range of 1992 – 2004 total some $578,000 in non-payments and for a company that is making money that may seem to be a problem.

“It’s (the lawsuits) only a problem if the other NFL owners deem it a problem,” David M. Carter of the Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group said in the September 1st article. “When you are in business that long and have multimillion dollar transactions, you will probably get dinged along the way. The significance of the magnitude will be subject to how other owners feel about him.”

If the excessive non-payment suits are Fowler’s only issue then why should others care? Mainly because there are still some who believe that Blacks simply cannot be that successful in business. Fowler’s business interests go beyond the industrial company he owns where he produces plastic bags and other supplies for grocery stores. He has developed or co-developed other companies with the Spiral name. However what has given his ‘enemies’ credence is his non-payment of bills and that has seemed to spark the necessary brush war for trying to derail the 45-year-old Tucson native.

In the same article, Marianne Jennings, a legal and business ethics professor at Arizona State University, said the number of lawsuits against Spiral did not seem excessive, but the recurring issue of non-payment was unusual.

“The numbers are not unusual, but the consistent pattern is,” Jennings said. “If it’s continually a pattern where someone is suing because they don’t get paid, there could be an issue there. … It’s not an efficient way to settle accounts.”

Maybe it’s not but does that mean that there should be such a flurry of action of individuals trying to derail the attempt? As stated earlier if $578,000 in judgments is all that Fowler’s company owes his debtors and he has sales in the nine figure category, then all Fowler needs to do is pay his bills. That’s a far cry from some of the other issues that have popped up for some current owners of professional franchises.