Vikings Founder Max Winter Dies At 93
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Max Winter, who helped build one of the great dynasties in sports history and brought pro football to Minnesota, has died.
Winter died Friday night after a long illness. He was 93.
Born in the Austrian village of Mahrishostrau, Winter came to the United States when his family emigrated in 1913 and settled in Minneapolis.
He attended North High School, graduating in 1922 after playing football and captaining the basketball team. Though only 5-foot-4 1/2, Winter attended Hamline University on a basketball scholarship.
After college, Winter became a fight manager and promoter, owned a Twin Cities restaurant and promoted games for the Harlem Globetrotters.
When Ben Berger and Morris Chaffen bought the Lakers of the old National Basketball League in 1947, Winter was hired as general manager. Winter ran the entire operation and also had a financial interest in the franchise.
Led by George Mikan and Jim Pollard, the Lakers won titles in the NBL in 1948 and Basketball Association of America in 1949 before the leagues merged to form the NBA.
Winter acquired Vern Mikkelson to give the Lakers basketball’s first dominant front line and the Lakers completed their sweep of three titles in three leagues by winning the 1950 championship. Bud Grant, a multisport star whom Winter would later hire to coach the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL, was also a member of the team.
After losing to Rochester in the 1951 semifinals, the Lakers won three straight NBA crowns, giving them six titles in seven years as one of the great dynasties in all of sports.
Winter resigned as Lakers GM after the 1954-55 season and sold his stock in the team to Mikan. But it wasn’t long before he resumed activity in local sports.
In 1960, just after the Lakers moved to Los Angeles, Winter and partners Bill Boyer and H.P. Skoglund were awarded an NFL franchise. The Vikings’ first game was Sept. 17, 1961.
``Max was the foundation of the Vikings,″ team vice president Jeff Diamond said Friday night. ``A great individual. Great knowledge of the NFL and the sports business. He was an inspiration to a lot of us who worked in those early years when he was running the club.″
Winter became president of the club in 1964. Along with GM Jim Finks and Grant, who was hired as coach in 1967, Winter built a championship-caliber club that went to four Super Bowls, losing them all.
Winter’s relationship with the Vikings soured in the 1980s when he became the focal point in the dispute over ownership of the team.
Winter, who sold all of his stock in the team to Minneapolis businessmen Carl Pohlad and Irwin Jacobs, testified in 1986 that the general manager he hired, Mike Lynn, tricked him into relinquishing control of the club.
Winter had hired Lynn as his personal assistant in 1974 and promoted him to vice president and GM in 1975. It wasn’t until 1984 that Lynn wrested full control of the club from Winter, who remained president through 1988.
Winter and Lynn, who once had what both described as a father-son relationship, didn’t speak for years.