D.C. United investor Will Chang said he would retain a “significant part” of the MLS club if, as expected, a deal with new backers is finalized this summer.
In a phone interview Thursday, Chang told the Insider that “I love this team, I’m not getting out and I will continue to own a significant part of this team.”
Chang declined to discuss the negotiations or possible investors, but multiple sources said Erick Thohir, an Indonesian businessman who owns a share of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, is close to purchasing the majority share of United. A second new investor, an American with sports connections, is also planning to invest in the club, sources said. His identity couldn’t be ascertained.
Thohir and the unidentified potential partner visited the team at RFK Stadium last week.
“I don’t have an agreement,” Chang said. “We’re talking to several parties, I am getting a lot of interest, and that’s where we are. I don’t have anything concrete right now.”
Because of MLS’s business structure, individuals or groups invest in the league as a whole and acquire operating rights to a team. League sources say Commissioner Don Garber has met with Thohir and the other potential newcomer. On Wednesday, while attending the U.S. national team match against Brazil at FedEx Field, Garber said he didn’t want to comment on United’s status.
Chang, a San Francisco-based executive, has been United’s lone investor for three years after buying out Bay Area partner Victor MacFarlane and, later, other backers.
Additional investment is needed “to help us get a stadium,” Chang said. While most MLS teams have moved into new or renovated venues, United has played all 17 seasons at antiquated, oversized RFK Stadium.
Without a new facility, United would, at some point, have to consider relocating, league officials have said. Although United would like to stay in Washington, club officials are also considering a proposed stadium project in the Westport neighborhood of Baltimore.
United’s primary focus is on Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington, a few blocks from Nationals Park. The formula under discussion is for the club to pay for construction of the stadium, with the city covering land and infrastructure costs — similiar to deals in Houston and Salt Lake City.
Earlier this month, United President Kevin Payne said: “We hope these conversations with new partners will come to fruition this spring and conversations with the District [about a stadium] can resume in late spring or early summer.”