Is D.C. United investor Will Chang worried about the direction of his club after two lackluster performances?
“I am absolutely behind this team, I believe in this team, and once we read each other and come together, we’re going to be a good team,” Chang told the Insider on Tuesday.
With United just 5.8 percent through the MLS schedule, Chang is preaching patience with a team that has had a rough time integrating new players, reintegrating starters returning from long-term injury and adjusting to Olympic qualifying absences.
He didn’t want to comment on specific team matters but was upbeat throughout our conversation.
The primary reason I called him, though, was to check on a tip that Indonesian media magnate Erick Thohir, a part-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, had taken a keen interest in purchasing a large stake of United. Chang declined to comment — as any investor would do when asked about potential new partners, whether or not they are in the immediate plans.
Chang did, however, confirm that he continues to work with Inner Circle Sports, a New York-based investment bank focused on the sports industry, in an effort to identify partners. Chang is United’s lone investor after buying out Victor MacFarlane and smaller groups in 2009. All other MLS teams are run by groups, organizations or companies.
“Everything is still fluid,” he said. “Yes, we’re talking to people. I am talking to a number of groups. ... I continue to look for partners to keep the team in D.C. and get a stadium done, or get a deal in another place. I need partners that will help us get a stadium.”
Chang is among 32 principal partners in Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants. He has said he would like to build a diverse ownership group similar to the Giants’.
Before founding Inner Circle in 2002, Rob Tillis ran JPMorgan Chase’s sports group and oversaw a $170 million loan to the Giants to build their bayside ballpark. Among its many sports deals, Inner Circle helped arrange the sale of the 76ers last year to a consortium that includes Thohir.
Aside from the 76ers, Thohir is involved with basketball leagues in Southeast Asia and oversees a media company that operates TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines and online properties.