SBJ/November 26 - December 2, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Anschutz group buys rights to MetroStars, its fifth MLS team

Anschutz Entertainment Group bought the operating rights to the Major League Soccer MetroStars last Tuesday, giving it control of nearly half the franchises within the 12-team league.

"We would have enormous struggles in determining our future without [Anschutz Entertainment Group]," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. He added that he had no fears that Anschutz would ever pull back from its commitment to the league.

Anschutz Entertainment Group paid an undisclosed price to John Kluge and Stuart Subotnick for the MetroStars, based in New Jersey. The duo is now out of the league entirely, Garber said. They served as investor/operators through an affiliate of Metromedia Company, Empire Soccer Club.

MLS is down to five investor/operators: Lamar Hunt, the Kraft family in New England, Kenneth Horowitz, Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment and Anschutz Entertainment Group. MLS investors have spent more than $250 million to find a niche in the U.S. market since the league was formed in 1993.

Anschutz Entertainment Group, owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, also owns operating rights to the Los Angeles Galaxy, Chicago Fire, D.C. United and Colorado Rapids. Operating rights for a potential second team in the New York area, owned previously by Kluge and Subotnick, will revert to MLS.

Kluge and Subotnick had discussed building a soccer stadium at the Aqueduct race track in Queens for a second New York team. Losing Subotnick, a director for the New York Racing Association, might hurt those prospects for the league.

The MetroStars averaged 20,807 fans per game in 2001, second-highest in the league and an 18.1 percent increase from the previous season. The team is hoping to move out of Giants Stadium and build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium in Harrison, N.J. Anschutz Entertainment Group is expected to break ground on a soccer complex for the Los Angeles Galaxy early next year.

Anschutz also has stakes in the Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Lakers, among other sports properties.

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