The $1.5 billion sale of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx to Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore may have hit a snag. And may not be as sweet a deal for Minnesota as previously believed.
Meyer Orbach, the second largest shareholder of the Timberwolves, filed a complaint in federal court in Minneapolis on Wednesday alleging that the team's sale is in violation of the franchise's partnership agreement, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Orbach, who owns about 17 percent of the Minnesota teams, reportedly claims current majority owner Glen Taylor failed to honor "tag-along rights" for minority investors, which apparently allow them to sell their stakes in the team before Taylor sells his own.
At issue appears to be where those rights kick in when the team is sold in installments, as the Timberwolves reportedly are. Rodriguez and Lore are reportedly expected to purchase 20 percent of the team in 2021, then grow their percentage until assuming a controlling stake for the 2023-24 season.
Orbach reportedly claims he attempted to exercise his tag-along rights, but was ignored by Taylor, who allegedly claimed that the rights won't be usable until the "control sale" years into the future. Orbach's lawsuit reportedly claims Taylor is wrong and the structure of the sale is a "clumsy attempt to circumvent" his rights.
While the behind-closed-doors squabbling of billionaires and multi-millionaires likely won't affect Timberwolves fans — the sale appears to be intact despite the lawsuit — one thing that could be cause of concern is a small detail thrown into the suit.
Timberwolves minority owner claims A-Rod and partner will be able to move team
Throughout the process of selling the team, Taylor has publicly maintained that he is including a provision in his deal with Rodriguez and Lore that will effectively prevent the new owners from moving the team out of the Twin Cities.
Taylor said this to the Star Tribune's Christopher Hine (it should be noted that Taylor also owns the Star Tribune):
"They will keep the team here, yes. We will put it in the agreement. At this point we have a letter of intent, but when we make up the contract we’ll put that in there. That’s no problem. That won’t be a problem."
According to Orbach, it could be a problem.
Orbach's lawsuit reportedly claims that the current agreement between Lore and Rodriguez contains no such provision, and that it explicitly lists relocating the team out of the Twin Cities market as something that can be presented to the team's advisory board for discussion. Orbach claims that the advisory board can only, well, advise, and that the new owners would not require approval to move the team.
The Timberwolves reportedly have a lease at the Target Center through 2035, but the $50 million buyout is small enough to be a minor obstacle in the move.
Keeping the Timberwolves has long been a major concern in a post-Taylor world for the team's fan base. Taylor bought the team in 1994 for $88 million to prevent a move to New Orleans, and Minnesota has never been considered a big market in the league.
This is all coming from a person who clearly has a bone to pick with Taylor, but it's not nothing as Rodriguez and Lore await final approval from the NBA Board of Governors to begin assuming control of the team.
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