D.C. United will announce today that a local group led by two real estate executives has purchased the MLS club's operating rights from Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, sources close to the deal said yesterday.
The team has scheduled a news conference at the National Press Club to introduce Willi Lauterbach and Timothy Kissler as new league investors who will oversee United's operations. Kevin Payne, United's current president and chief executive officer, and real estate attorney Kenneth Lore are also believed to have a role in the group.
Club officials declined to reveal the nature of the announcement, other than to say that Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, would attend. However, those sources, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the deal, said details of the sale would finally be unveiled today.
The Post reported several weeks ago that the sale, estimated at $20 million, had been all but completed and an announcement would be made shortly.
United's new group is planning to aggressively pursue construction of a medium-size soccer stadium at Poplar Point in Southeast. That land is in the process of being transferred from the federal government to the D.C. government and is being proposed for mixed-use development.
Lauterbach has worked on several major projects around the world, while Kissler is a former executive with John Akridge Co., a prominent Washington-based developer. Lauterbach and Kissler formed Global Development Partners and have been working together on a stadium plan for the Richmond Braves, a minor league baseball team. They also have expressed interest in developing the Washington Nationals' proposed stadium in Southeast.
AEG, the primary investor in MLS since the league's launch in 1996, took over United's operations in 2001 when Washington Soccer LP collapsed. It also runs the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, Chicago Fire, Los Angeles Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes, but has planned for some time to sell the rights to United and the Earthquakes in order to concentrate its efforts on its remaining clubs.
Under MLS's business structure, individuals or groups invest in the league as a whole and then are awarded operating rights to specific clubs.