A-Rod's partner in buying Minnesota's NBA, WNBA teams knows a thing or two about deals

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Nick Williams, Star Tribune
·4 min read
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Marc Lore is known for being a tech entrepreneur who also has a communications style that has inspired workers and convinced the nation's largest retailer to take some uncharacteristic risks.

If his latest deal with partner and former Major League Baseball player Alex Rodriguez to buy the Timberwolves goes through, he is expected to bring that savvy to that organization — and apply his tech knowledge to operations.

Anyone who has listened to Lore talk was unlikely surprised by the Timberwolves move. Lore gave a few interviews in January and alluded to some of his next ventures to the Wall Street Journal. He mentioned pro sports.

He also said he planned to launch new companies and advise others, along with plans to write a book about his life and career, work on a reality TV show and get more involved with philanthropy. Maybe even help build a sustainable city.

"I'm not going to be sitting still, that's for sure," he told CNBC.

Lore, 49, and Rodriguez plan to spend $1.5 billion to buy the Timberwolves and Lynx from owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune.

The two have a relationship beyond the Timberwolves deal.

Lore and Rodriguez also were in the bidding last year to buy the New York Mets, but were eventually outbid by hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen.

Lore is special adviser to Slam Corp., a blank check company formed by Rodriguez and Himanshu Gulati, the founder and chairman of Antara Capital. Slam Corp. announced a $500 million pricing for its initial public offering in February and is looking to merge with a startup in the sports, media or health and wellness industry.

Lore, who declined to comment for this article, has experience in turning companies into attractive acquisition targets. He has grown and sold four tech companies for billions of dollars.

In 2014, Lore launched Jet.com. He sold the company to Walmart two years later for $3.3 billion, then joined the largest U.S. retailer's executive team and led its digital efforts. He retired from that role at the end of January to pursue his next ventures.

Throughout his time there, he pushed the envelope, convincing Walmart to spend money and experiment in some failures along the way. In the end, though, Walmart had doubled its market share of online sales.

"From the start I felt empowered by [Walmart CEO] Doug [McMillon]," Lore wrote in a LinkedIn post about his transition from Walmart. "We had a shared vision for the future and we felt like there was a really big opportunity to leverage the assets of Walmart, the assets at Jet, the people, bring it all together, and go after that big vision together."

Lore's business résumé also includes Quidsi, the parent company of e-commerce sites Diapers.com, Soap.com and Wag.com, that sold to Amazon in 2010 for $550 million. He also worked a few years for Amazon after the sale.

Another venture, The Pit Inc., an internet collectible company, sold to Topps Co. in 2001.

But he has received the most attention for Jet.com, which grew to 900 employees in its first year.

Lore pointed to the culture at Jet.com as the main driver of growth.

The culture summed up in three words? "Transparency, trust and fairness," he said during a 2015 Wharton School of Business program. "Together, those work to empower people."

By transparency, he means that Jet.com was as open as possible about where the company was financially and its objectives at a given moment. Also instituted was a pay policy in which everyone at the same level made the same.

Building trust is necessary, he said, if you're going "all in."

Having a hiring strategy is also pivotal, he recently wrote via LinkedIn.

"When hiring, I look for missionaries over mercenaries. Being a missionary means that the primary motivation is not the money, it's following a passion for seeing something new exist in the world. Every company has a mission and vision and, as a leader, it's all about finding people that really believe in the mission, want to make a contribution, and be a part of something bigger than themselves. Yes, money will come and they want money, but it's secondary."

Jet.com started as an online shopping club with big savings for dues-paying members. However, there were signals it wasn't working, he said, and although he and his team knew they would get added scrutiny, they opened up the savings to everyone.

A former Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year regional winner, Lore was also named to Fortune Magazine's "Smartest People in Technology."

Lore currently hosts "Startup Standup," an online series in which he mentors and advises female founders who are preparing to secure their first, or next, round of institutional funding.

Before launching those businesses, Lore was executive vice president and head of risk management for Sanwa International Bank in London, and vice president of emerging markets risk management at Credit Suisse First Boston.