Washington Capitals minority partner Jonathan Ledecky has had discussions about joining a group that is negotiating to purchase D.C. United's operating rights, sources close to the Major League Soccer club said yesterday.
One source said that a deal may be completed by this weekend, when MLS's board of governors meets in Boston prior to United playing in the league championship game in nearby Foxboro, Mass.
Ledecky reportedly has discussed joining a group led by EM Warburg, Pincus and Co., a New York investment banking firm that has been negotiating to buy United's operating rights for between $25 million and $30 million.
Ledecky joined Kevin Payne, United's president and general manager, in the owner's box at RFK Stadium last Saturday for D.C.'s 4-0 victory over Columbus in the Eastern Conference finals.
Ledecky didn't return phone calls yesterday. Payne, who has overseen negotiations for the last year, is out of the country and couldn't be reached to comment.
Under MLS's single-entity structure, major investors buy into the league and are given a team to operate. Since the league was formed in 1996, United has been run by Washington Soccer L.P., an investment group led by Soros Fund Management, which is owned by international financier George Soros.
In May, Ledecky joined America Online executive Ted Leonsis to buy the Capitals and a minority share of Washington Sports & Entertainment, the umbrella company that operates the Washington Wizards and MCI Center, for about $200 million. Ledecky spent about $40 million on the deal and owns 32 percent of the Capitals (compared with Leonsis's 60 percent).
Ledecky, 41, has a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University and is known for turning ideas into businesses. Ledecky has built his fortune by creating several companies, including E2ENet, which builds Web sites.
Ledecky's first company, U.S. Office Products Co., grew into a billion-dollar-a-year operation faster than any business in Washington history. But it proved to be unprofitable and was broken into five companies. Since then Ledecky's companies have included U.S.A. Floral Products Inc. of Washington; Unicapital Corp., a Florida equipment financing company; and OneMain.com Inc. of Vienna, a collection of rural Internet service providers.
MLS's major investors include NFL team owners Lamar Hunt and Robert Kraft, billionaire businessmen John Kluge and Philip Anschutz and communications entrepreneur Kenneth Horowitz.
New York financial executive Scott Gordon had expressed interest in purchasing United's operating rights during the summer, but the Tampa Tribune reported that he is now trying to put together a group to take over the league-operated team in Tampa.
MLS Notes: The league has scheduled a teleconference today to announce several changes, including the removal of the shootout to break ties at the end of regulation and the likely reduction of the number of regular season games per team. . . . Sigi Schmid, who took over the Los Angeles Galaxy five games into the season and guided it to the MLS title game, was named coach of the year. United's Thomas Rongen and Dallas's Dave Dir were the other finalists. . . .
The Galaxy's Kevin Hartman was named goalkeeper of the year, ahead of Dallas's Matt Jordan and Tampa Bay's Scott Garlick. MLS will announce the rookie and defender of the year today. . . . Former United captain John Harkes and retired defender Alexi Lalas will be studio hosts for the pregame and halftime shows Sunday on ABC's telecast of the final. . . .
Sunday's forecast for Foxboro: mostly cloudy, 57 degrees.