Two prominent sports businessmen have bought a controlling interest in D.C. United and expect to reignite talks with the District government about a new soccer stadium project in Southwest D.C., lending new weight to city hopes of keeping the team.
Indonesian media mogul Erick Thohir and former sports agent and NBA executive Jason Levien have invested in the club, joining current investor William Chang, the three announced at a downtown press conference Tuesday. Thohir and Levien are already part owners of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. Levien will become managing partner for D.C. United. Chang will retain ownership shares but take a back seat to the newcomers.
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Thohir and Levien will turn their attention to developing the club as a global brand and building a stadium.
“I have two dreams actually, one to find a permanent home and two to turn D.C. United into a global brand,” Chang said at the press conference. “In Jason and Erick, I found the perfect partners for fulfilling my dreams.”
That means returning to the negotiating table with the D.C. government to discuss the financing of a soccer-specific stadium in the city’s Buzzard Point neighborhood, along the Anacostia River a few blocks from Nationals Park. Talks had died down in recent months, but the new owners say they are ready to move.
D.C. United has not committed to staying in the District. The team has talked about striking deals to build a new stadium in Maryland. In May, D.C. United agreed to pay the state $175,000 for a feasibility study being conducted by the Maryland Stadium Authority if the team does not move to Baltimore.
The new owners said Baltimore or the Maryland suburbs of Washington are still on the table as options for a new stadium. Still, the owners said they would prefer to stay in D.C.
“It’s good to be in Washington, D.C.,” said Thohir.
D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, said he is looking forward to working with the new owners.
“Last time I had discussions, I was told that as soon as they get this new group on board that we could resume discussions at that point in time,” Evans said. “I want to keep them in the city. I want to put something together.”
Levien, who has served as a Democratic strategist, a sports agent and a lawyer in the D.C. firm Williams & Connolly LLP, will be the group’s point man on stadium negotiations, while Thohir will use his media expertise to bolster the club’s national and international image.
Thohir and Levien now become the Major League Soccer franchise’s fifth different controlling owners in its 17-year history. Chang has held sole control of D.C. United since 2009, when he bought out former partners, including Victor MacFarlane. The duo purchased the club in 2007.