Monday, February 14, 2005

African American Man, Reggie Fowler, To Buy Vikings

HEY! I'm watching NFL Network as I work on the computer, and the Minnesota Vikings are being sold..To a BLACK MAN! Yeah! His name's Reggie Fowler and he's from Arizona! Real great.

Let's see what info the Internet has...Check this ESPN link

I also found this from the AZReporter:

Business interests: Owner of Chandler-based Spiral Inc., which has supplied non-food items to grocery stores. He owns manufacturing, aviation and real estate companies, plus a cattle ranch.
Personal: Age 46, native of Tucson.
Football experience: Played football at the University of Wyoming, then briefly with the Cincinnati Bengals and a season with the now-defunct Arizona Wranglers of the United States Football League.

And more from the AZ reporter...

NFL quest puts humble Arizonan in limelight

Craig Harris
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 12, 2005 12:00 AM

Without fanfare, Chandler's Reggie Fowler has become a millionaire by selling life's simplest products.

Pencils, plastic bags and foam trays that hold meat in supermarkets all have been part of Fowler's business portfolio, which now includes a cattle ranch, bank, ice-skating rink and flight-simulator company.

His next acquisition, however, would be the most prominent.

The 46-year-old, who owns Chandler-based Spiral Inc., is in the final stages of buying the Minnesota Vikings. If the deal, which could be announced as early as Monday, goes through, Fowler would become the first African-American to own a National Football League franchise. The price has not been disclosed, but the Vikings' value has been estimated at more than $600 million.

"This is not an ego trip for him," said Jack Clifford, a Valley broadcaster in the 1970s and a business partner of Fowler. "This is a business deal, and it's time for someone like Reggie to be an important financial player in major-league sports. Maybe it will break open the opportunity for others."

In 1989, with a $1,000 investment, Fowler started Spiral, which has supplied a range of non-food items, such as bags, cups, containers, labels and janitorial supplies, to grocery stores.

Spiral, which Fowler named after the direction of a football thrown on a straight line, also is the name of his other enterprises, including an aviation firm and development and foam-manufacturing companies.

Revenues for his firms have grown from $12.3 million in 1992 to $31 million in 2003, according to published reports. Fowler declined to disclose current revenues. His net worth is estimated in excess of $400 million.

"We have had a lot of vision. We are relentless and hard workers," Fowler said. "But we don't like to talk about what we do. . . . I really like my privacy."

Fowler, described by friends and business partners as intense, honest and hardworking, also has tried to stay below the radar in his pursuit of the Vikings.

His quest became public last summer, but since then he has declined to make many public statements except to say he is working to buy the team.

The Arizona Republic and Minneapolis media outlets have reported in recent days that a deal with Vikings owner Red McCombs is imminent. McCombs did not return calls Friday.

On the way up
Fowler got his start in business by working for his father, but it was a humble start.

He washed dishes.

Growing up in Tucson, Fowler worked at his dad's restaurant, Al's Pit Bar-b-que, the same place the Sahuaro High School football squad would have its team dinners when Reggie was a star tailback.

Fowler's mother, Eloise, said that although Reggie's two brothers and two sisters were interested in cooking, he was more concerned about the overall business.

"He wanted to know the profits. He was interested in economics," she said.

At home, Eloise said Reggie was the only one of her children who always seemed to have money tucked away.

"He would loan his sisters and brothers money," she said, "and then he would have them do his chores for him."

After graduating from high school in 1977, Fowler went to the University of Wyoming on a football scholarship, where he played linebacker and earned a reputation as a gritty, tough player. During a game against Oklahoma, the tip of his right index finger was cut off and had to be sewn back on.

He earned a bachelor's degree in social work in December 1981, according to university records, and then played briefly with the Cincinnati Bengals and one season with the now-defunct Arizona Wranglers of the U.S. Football League.

When his playing days ended, Fowler enrolled in graduate school at Arizona State University, but he was recruited to work as a sales representative for Mobil Chemical, a division of Mobil Oil in the mid-1980s.

"The hours he worked were endless," said Rick Bifulco, a former Mobil executive who hired Fowler. "He was smart and aggressive, and he won all the promotions."

Bifulco said Fowler was one of the first sales representatives who had mastered the use of an Apple computer.

After about two years of working for Mobil's packaging division, which included selling paper bags, plastics and foam products to grocery stores, Fowler left the company and worked as a distributor, Bifulco said.

"Plastic is what I did. People used to say I was a plastics engineer," Fowler said. "We were good at it."

In the mid-1990s, Fowler sold the plastics-supply company to Unisource, a division of Alco Standard Co. of Pennsylvania, for an undisclosed amount.

"It was a very valuable acquisition for us. His was by far one of the most-profitable companies that we had bought," said Rick Check, a former Unisource executive who now owns his own packaging company. "He knows how to sell profitably and keep his costs down."

Check said one of the things that impressed him about Fowler was that he never flaunted his success.

"When we would drive around to the stores he serviced, it was never in a nice car. That's not his image," Check said.

Even today, Fowler said he drives a 5-year-old short-bed Toyota pickup. However, he does have his toys.

Fowler, a licensed pilot, said he owns a King Air 200, a twin turboprop corporate plane that can accommodate about a dozen people.

About three years ago, Fowler acquired Spiral Aviation Training Co. in Centennial, Colo., near Denver.

The company, which Fowler said is one of the top three simulator manufacturers in the world, sells flight-simulator and flight-training devices in the commercial, business and military markets. Its clients include Continental Connection, Northrop Grumman and the Navy.

Fowler's other interests in Colorado include a foam-tray manufacturer in Denver, which makes trays for meat products in supermarkets, and the Bamford Feed Yard, an Angus cattle ranch in Haxtun, in the state's northeastern corner, where Fowler has 25,000 head of cattle.

If that weren't enough, Fowler said he owns more than $300 million in real estate in Arizona and Colorado, and he said he is developing homes in Phoenix and Nogales under Spiral Construction Management.

Fowler also is the largest investor in Phoenix-based Bank of the Southwest, a two-branch community bank that has $84.3 million in assets, according to the state Banking Department. In Chandler, Fowler also owns Makutu's Island, a popular play spot, and the building for Polar Ice, a skating rink. In the past, he also has owned a bakery and a Water & Ice store.

"Reggie has always been an entrepreneur," said John Mistler, Fowler's high school teammate and executive vice president of the bank. "He's a self-made man who has found ways to be successful. . . . And he has parlayed that into the wealth he has today."

Mistler, a former NFL receiver with the New York Giants and a color commentator for the Arizona Cardinals, said Fowler has worked just as hard to stay out of the spotlight.

"Some people are just private," Mistler said. "Reggie is not a person looking for a lot of accolades. . . . He enjoys being in the background, and he likes it that way. He has been very successful in doing that."

A helping hand
Fowler has stepped up in his own way, however. In the late 1990s, he quietly put up $10 million to help the Horizon Community Learning Center build a K-12 charter school in the Ahwatukee Foothills.

The school, which was initially unable to get a bank loan, later sold bonds to buy back the facilities.

Fowler, who has no ties to the school, said he helped because he could.

"When you make money, you feel you should give back. We had an opportunity," Fowler said. "Others have helped me along the line."

Although Fowler has had immense success, his Spiral Inc. has had a few blemishes.

The company has been sued 19 times in the past six years on allegations that it did not pay its bills. Half of the cases were settled or ended in judgments.

The cases, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court and two Justice Courts, sought a combined $578,000 for non-payment of bills, contracts or employee wages.

Two sports-marketing experts have said the lawsuits likely would not create a problem for Fowler, who would need approval from other NFL owners to buy the Vikings.

They said NFL owners, who own other businesses, also likely have been sued and understand that it is part of doing business.

Fowler said that the average lawsuit involved less than $1,200 and that in most cases he was not involved. In some cases, he said, Spiral was sued because it owned the property where there was a legal dispute and the dispute centered on a subcontractor.

Those close to Fowler say that nearly everything he has touched has been successful.

"He's the type you want to go to battle with," said Lafayette "Fat" Lever, a former NBA player who has done business with Fowler.

"You know as hard as you work, he is going to work 50 times harder. The competitive spirit comes out in him. He will not be outdone or outworked. . . . If he wants to get it done, he will find a way to get it done."

Happy Valentines Day!

Don't forget to give...Even if you don't get anything.

StepDad in the Hospital - Again

My Mom took my StepDad into Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital today to be treated for pneumonia. Wow, this has been a hard period of time. A prayer is welcome!

Fox's Sports Bay Area Baseball Luncheon

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending my fourth Fox SportsNet Bay Area Baseball Luncheon, held at Treature Island. For those of you not aware of the event, it's considered the "kickoff" baseball season event for the media of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The featured speaker was Bob DuPuy, who is the Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball and someone I wanted to meet to talk about SBS's Oakland Baseball Simworld and ask him about how MLB deals with excessive debt amoung teams.

Media Roast of People and Politicians

The luncheon is a media roast. Ray Kiper was the event MC, and seemed to leave few luminaries out of his humor gunsight. Some of the people he talked about -- like Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown -- were there. Others, like San Francisco Chronicle Columnist and friend Glenn Dickey, were not.

Ray said this about Dickey: "Is Glenn Dickey here? No? Well, that's right because he doesn't have his column anymore!" That was a low blow. I don't know what Glenn did to deserve that. I personally think Ray should have spent more time roasting Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.

Yes, Jerry was there, and about a table away from mine. He was sitting with Mike Crowley, President of the Oakland A's, SF Giants GM Brian Sabien, SF Giants Owner Peter McGowan, SF Giants President Larry Bear, Du Puy, and Randy Muller of Fox Corporate.

While Jerry was there, Simone Brice, who I know, and who's worked in the City of Oakland, walked in. I offered him a seat and lunch at our table, since there were about four open seats. He sat down and we caught up on things.

Simone and I hold differing views on what our roles in Oakland should be. I am passionate about Oakland; Simone sees Oakland as a means to a personal end. In other words more money and pension for a better life. Personally, that's why I'm running SBS. I just feel that I can do more of a personal nature here in a private business.
With Oakland, I was on a mission to make the City better.

Simone and I also talked about Jerry and just how hard it is to work for him. See, Jerry tends to be really inconsiderate of his staff people. I mean if you think California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley had problems with his staff, take a look at Jerry Brown. What protects Jerry is his celebrity status, and the media's almost rose-colored view of him. A view so unrealitic it borders on silly. But I digress. Let's get back to the luncheon.

DuPuy Says Major League Baseball Supports Oakland

After the round of Kiper Jokes, Fox Sports GM Jeff Krolik introduced DuPuy. In his speech, DuPuy stated more than once, that Major League Baseball was committed to keeping the A's in Oakland with a new baseball stadium.

There's a school of thought which goes like this: Major League Baseball will try to work with the Oakland Officials, knowing they don't have their act together, then work to relocate the team to San Jose. I personally don't think Major League Baseball would work to damage the Giants' fan base in the South Bay, but I'm only reporting a school of thought.

One part of that idea is that Oakland officials do need to get their act together. Well, more specifically, the Coliseum Authority and the Mayor's Office -- er, The Mayor.

Anyway, I saw a lot of people at the lunch. I saw Jerry and he saw me while he was at the podium. I think I may have caused him to skip a few lines.

I also saw my good friends Monte Poole and Marty Mandel, who's a local TV and Broadcasting agent, as well as Jay De La Cruz, who makes the whole lunch happen for Fox. Then there are long times friends from the A's like David Rinetti and Dave Alioto. And of course I met a ton of people and collected business cards I have to follow up on.

In all, a great way to start the baseball season!