Erick Thohir, an Indonesian media magnate and part-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, will be introduced as D.C. United’s majority investor Tuesday, multiple people familiar with the deal said Monday morning.
United has scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference Tuesday at the W Hotel to “introduce new members of the ownership group.” Current investor Will Chang, who will retain a stake in the MLS club, and United President Kevin Payne will attend.
Reached Sunday night, Chang said he didn’t want to comment. Other club officials also declined to speak on the record about the announcement.
Said Payne: “Tomorrow’s announcement will be good news for the club. The time to talk about this is tomorrow.”
Thohir’s interest in United came to light on the Insider in March. The sides have been in late stages of negotiations ever since.
The deal eases the financial burden on Chang, United’s lone backer since partner Victor MacFarlane’s abrupt divestment three years ago. According to a published report, another 76ers part-owner, Jason Levien, a former sports agent and NBA executive with the Sacramento Kings, will also join Thohir.
Chang, who is based in Northern California, had said since taking full control that he would seek additional partners. Payne, who has overseen United’s operations since the club’s launch in 1996, is expected to retain day-to-day control.
The pact infuses the MLS club with much-needed resources to aggressively pursue a new stadium project at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington. Under preliminary plans, United would offer to pay for the construction of the facility, four blocks west of Nationals Park, and seek assistance from the city government for land acquisition and infrastructure costs.
“I can assure you we are not announcing a stadium tomorrow,” Payne said. “There is going to be a lot of [talk] about the stadium tomorrow as part of the [ownership] announcement. Nothing specific but just in the terms” of the future with new investment.
Since MLS began, United has played at RFK Stadium, an antiquated, 50-year-old facility that the club rents from the city. Most MLS teams play in new or renovated stadiums, projects that have enhanced their ability to turn a profit.
New investors will also help stabilize United’s finances after years of losses in the millions and enhance the front office’s ability to compete with well-backed MLS teams like the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls for high-priced players.
Thohir, who hasn’t responded to interview requests, was scheduled to arrive in Washington on Monday evening, one source said.
Thohir owns TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines in Indonesia and has a stake in professional basketball in his native country. Since last October, he and Levien have been among 14 investors in the 76ers, a group led by Chevy Chase’s Josh Harris that purchased the team for $280 million. Thohir is the first Asian owner of an NBA team.
Levien has strong political ties, having served as a speechwriter at the 2000 Democratic Convention and as a strategist and campaign consultant.