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Big Change in Columbus

columbusThere are big happenings around the All-Star Game in Kansas City this week, including a great job by the league, Sporting and City in decorating downtown and promoting the game around the area.  However, the big business story of the day comes from Columbus.  The Crew, one of the original MLS franchises and the first team to construct its own stadium, has been operated by the Hunt Family since the beginning.  The Hunts divested themselves of the Wizards back in 2006 and on Tuesday it was announced that the Crew have also been sold.  The Hunts sole remaining MLS property is FC Dallas.

The new owners of the Crew are Precourt Sports Ventures, a private equity firm based in San Francisco.  The head of Precourt is Anthony Precourt, an investment banker by trade who announced plans in 2012 to diversify his holdings into sports and entertainment.   He doesn’t have a clear soccer background (he played college lacrosse) and is fairly young to have the assets required to purchase the team.   Precourt’s father is a longtime executive in the energy industry.

From a promotion (and ego) standpoint, the announcement of the deal as the ASG festivities is great timing.  Precourt gets an opportunity to revel in his new role as owner while the bulk of America’s soccer media is in one place to report on the story.  Precourt took to Twitter soon after the announcement to respond to questions of fans and to discuss his future plans for the Crew.    Courtesy of the Columbus Dispatch, here are some telling quotes from Precourt on the business side of things: “We have a long list of goals… “We want to make this team a standard-bearer in Major League Soccer, one of the gems. It’s a very healthy franchise, but we have plans to make it even stronger. Obviously attendance and Goal 10K are still a priority. We’re making progress. Close to 7,000, but we’ve got to keep pushing. We need the resources to win on the field, so corporate sponsors. We need support of the corporate sponsors. One of the first things I’m going to do is get out there and reintroduce myself. Naming rights (for Crew Stadium) is something we’ve been working very hard on and is very important to us. I think we’ll look at the brand and see if we can make it a little more exciting. Those are my first goals and objectives.”