Stars come out to back MLS club in LA
Los Angeles’ newest professional sports franchise doesn’t have a name, a home, any players or even a coaching staff. But it does have an impressive ownership group that figures to make all those other things a lot easier to obtain.
The fledgling Los Angeles Football Club, which will join Major League Soccer as an expansion team in 2017, was formally unveiled Thursday in Hollywood. And that announcement came with the introduction of a celebrity-rich roster of deep-pocketed investors that includes former NBA great Magic Johnson; former baseball All-Star Nomar Garciaparra and his wife, women’s soccer star Mia Hamm; self-help author Tony Robbins; and Mandalay Entertainment Chief Executive Peter Guber, a co-owner of the Dodgers and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
“They provide institutional, reputational, experiential capital,” Guber said of his fellow investors. “They are our team to help build our team up. You have to look at them as a foundational group. They bring a whole set of skills that is extraordinarily unique. This is an extraordinary, extraordinary ownership group.”
One that paid a record MLS expansion fee of just more than $100 million to join the league.
The team’s managing partner is Henry Nguyen, a Vietnamese American venture capitalist perhaps best known for bringing McDonald’s to Vietnam. Nguyen has already relocated his family to Southern California, where he will handle the day-to-day operations of the team. Guber will serve as executive chairman.
LAFC — a working title; the owners say fans will choose the team’s permanent name — will replace Chivas USA as the second team in the Southern California market behind the Galaxy. The league folded Chivas USA on Monday after 10 mostly disappointing seasons.
Among the many factors that led to Chivas USA’s downfall was the fact that it didn’t have its own stadium but shared StubHub Center with the Galaxy. So Nguyen said one of the first priorities of the new team will be finding a home. Among the sites that will be considered: Exposition Park, next to the USC campus, where plans for a soccer-specific stadium have long been discussed. MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who prefers a site near downtown, said part of the team’s deal with the league requires it to build a stadium in Southern California.
“Priority No. 1 is that a great soccer club, you’ve got to have a great home. You’ve got to have a great stadium,” Nguyen said. “That’s critical to our success. A lot of our efforts and resources and focus in this first year is really going out and identifying where that is.
“We’re fully funded. We are ready to build this.”