SBD/July 31, 2013/Franchises

Precourt Sports Ventures Buys MLS Crew After Efforts To Find Local Investors Fail

With his purchase of the Crew, Anthony Precourt will become the team's Chair
Hunt Sports Group yesterday announced that S.F.-based investment firm Precourt Sports Ventures has acquired the operating rights to the MLS Crew after the two sides "began seriously discussing a deal in the past six weeks," according to a front-page piece by Adam Jardy of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. The Crew is a "charter member" of MLS, was founded in '96 by the late Lamar Hunt and had "a dozen or so local, minority investors who dropped away over time." Hunt Sports Group Chair Clark Hunt "tried to bring back local investors in recent years." But when that failed, Precourt stepped in and "eventually acquired 100 percent of the Crew and Crew Stadium." Both Hunt and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said that a "key point in the sale was that the Crew remain in Columbus -- although the contract does not contain language tying the team to the city." PSV Managing Partner Anthony Precourt, who becomes the team's Chair, "declined to disclose the purchase price" and "assumes ownership immediately, inheriting a team that has publicly identified two remaining objectives necessary to bring financial stability: selling naming rights to Crew Stadium and reaching 10,000 season ticket-holders." Precourt's original business, Precourt Capital Management, "has primarily worked in the energy industry and formed" PSV in '12 to "make sports-related investments." This is the "first acquisition by the group" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 7/31).

PRECOURT'S PLANS: Hunt said that his family contacted Precourt about "becoming a minority investor in the Crew, but Precourt said he was only interested in becoming principal owner." In Columbus, Jeff Bell noted the Hunts, who also own FC Dallas, "have been encouraged" by MLS in recent years to "sell one of its teams as the league moves away from its old model of one group owning more than one franchise." Precourt said that his "goal is to make the Crew the 'standard bearer' in" MLS and "believes Columbus is the place to do that" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/30). Also in Columbus, Bob Hunter writes of the sale, "There are plenty of reasons to feel good about this: Precourt was oozing enthusiasm during and after the news conference where he was introduced, and he seemed genuinely excited to tackle any problems the franchise has." Still, the community "probably would have been better served if the Hunts had found a way to transfer the team to local ownership." Hunt said of that notion, "I wouldn’t be concerned. We were trying to count it last night -- there are eight or nine owners of MLS teams who live in California, so I don’t think it’s a problem as long as he’s committed to it, and I get the sense he’s going to be very committed. He’s going to spend a whole lot of time here in the market" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 7/31).
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