DC United Introduces New Investors, Sets Sights On Developing New Stadium
With MLS DC United introducing new investors Erick Thohir and Jason Levien yesterday, the club “strengthened its case and financial muscle in efforts to build a facility in the city,” according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. Thohir has partnered with remaining investor Will Chang to “provide the cash infusion needed to bankroll a medium-size stadium and mixed-use development, preferably at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington.” Levien’s monetary stake in the club is “considerably smaller, but with legal and government experience, he will play an equally critical role: navigating the turbulent political, business and real estate waters of Washington.” Levien said, “We see a pathway and we also know we’re going to have to use our machete to get there.” Thohir said, “We want a good location for the fans. If we have a stadium two hours from here, maybe it’s not D.C. United.” Team officials said that playing at RFK Stadium is "no longer economically feasible and a new facility is needed to keep the team in Washington.” Goff notes DC United has "suggested paying for the entire project, should the city agree to help pay for land acquisition, infrastructure and tax incentives." Other MLS teams have "used similar formulas in striking deals with local jurisdictions." DC United has also "explored an option in Baltimore, which has proposed constructing a stadium in the Westport neighborhood near the city’s football and baseball venues.” Each investor’s stake in the club "wasn’t released," but sources said that Thohir and Chang "are about equal”(WASHINGTON POST, 7/11).
LOOKING FOR A HOME: In DC, Thomas Floyd notes Levien “will be the public face of the partners,” but the three co-Owners “hope to accomplish two primary goals: to find a permanent home for United and cultivate a global brand.” The discussion at the introductory press conference “naturally turned to United’s stadium situation.” Levien cited “proximity to public transportation as a key aspect of the stadium search." He said, “At this point, the advantage that we have is that we’re bringing a fresh perspective to this. So we want to move quickly, but I also want to move thoughtfully through it.” Levien also mentioned the “possibility of moving the team to Baltimore,” but said, “We’re D.C. United. That’s our name. That’s our brand.” Floyd notes Levien, who lives in N.Y. and “carries deep ties to the D.C. area, will provide the team with a local presence in its stadium negotiations the way” Chang, who lives in Northern California, “never could” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/11). Also in DC, Craig Stouffer noted the new partners are “expected to impact D.C. United at all levels right away.” With their investment, Thohir and Levien "become the largest single ownership entity of the team." Though Chang's stake is less, the three "maintained that they will be equal parties in the club's major decisions.” Chang said, “I've been somewhat frustrated in trying to get a stadium negotiation going because I'm not here all the time. I needed someone who would give us continued presence on behalf of ownership here, and Jason will be here all the time.” Stouffer noted while Levien "works the local channels, the deep-pocketed Thohir will bring the financial muscle” (WASHINGTONEXAMINER.com, 7/10).
COMING TOGETHER: SPORTING NEWS’ Brian Straus wrote, “This apparent odd couple who met through their investment in the Philadelphia 76ers pledged both their devotion and their millions to doing more than restoring United to its former glory. They want to take D.C. global and, according to Levien, make the club the league’s ‘gold standard.’” Levien said, “We’re trying to get to MLS 3.0.” Thohir and Levien began to think about acquiring a stake in an MLS club "after attending an exhibition that Thohir arranged last November between the L.A. Galaxy and the Indonesian national team.” DC United President & CEO Kevin Payne said, “Our new partners have real staying power. They come into this with their eyes wide open. This isn’t a land grab. This is a sports opportunity and they recognize they have to invest in the team initially and they’re willing to do that” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/10).