The New Breed of Owners

columbusJust less than one month ago, the Columbus Crew announced a change in ownership when longtime team operators, the Hunt family, sold control of the team to 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 purchase is just the latest example of the new breed of young, hungry owners taking over the league.

Recall that the owner of the Timbers is Merritt Paulson.  Barely 40 years old, the Harvard MBA has operated the Portland franchise (and its NWSL) franchise since its inception. He has worked  Paulson is a regular presence on Twitter and engages fans and media.  After a career at the NBA and HBO, he jumped into sports ownership and was instrumental in the conversion of PGE Park from minor league baseball park to professional soccer stadium.  Here is a great feature on Paulson from last year.

Sporting KC’s Robb Heineman is similarly aged and also remarkably successful.  He is also the Managing Partner of Sporting Innovations, a technology company focused on innovation in sports and entertainment.  Heineman has been involved in sports ownership since 1992 as an owner/operator of the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Developmental League.  Heineman isn’t the only owner involved in OnGoal LLC.  The five principals of OnGoal include the following leaders in the Kansas City business community: Neal Patterson, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and co-founder of Cerner Corporation; Cliff Illig, vice chairman and co-founder of Cerner Corporation; Greg Maday, chairman and chief executive officer of SpecChem, LLC., and co-founder of Rock Island Capital, LLC.; and Pat Curran, founder and principal of C3 Capital, LLC.

These three men are the new face of Major League Soccer.  Old guard owners like Robert Kraft, the Hunts and Stan Kroenke are fading into the rear.  A few years back there was talk of MLS 2.0 with new teams and the reboot of franchises like Sporting.  However, these new owners are forceful, young, successful and primed to lead the league into version 3.0