The Washington Post

United makes more front-office changes

D.C. United’s new investment group continued restructuring the front office Friday, severing ties with two officials who had been with the club since the 1996 inaugural season: Stephen Zack, the executive vice president, and Fred Matthes, the senior director for ticket operations and customer service.

Several marketing and media employees also lost their jobs.

The moves came three days after Kevin Payne, the team president who had overseen United for all 17 seasons, stepped down and accepted a similar position with Toronto FC.

Since taking control of United in July, the investment group has been evaluating all aspects of the club. While pleased with the direction of the on-field product, it was troubled by a business operation that, according to one source familiar with the changes, was “hemorrhaging money.”

The moves were not cost-cutting measures. Rather, they were made to allow the investors to start fresh in certain areas.

Michael Williamson, the chief financial officer, and Doug Hicks, senior vice president for marketing and communications, were retained and will now oversee business initiatives.

The club has begun the process of replacing Payne and filling several other positions. The investors did not fire Payne, but didn’t want to keep him in his current role either and encouraged him to seek other opportunities.

United’s investment group — Erick Thohir, Will Chang and Jason Levien — has an “aggressive plan to grow the business,” one source said. “This is the initial phase.”

United’s primary business initiative is reaching a deal to build a stadium at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington. Along those lines, the proposed project took another small step forward Friday with news that the city and Pepco, a local power company that owns property on the site, had begun discussions about the feasibility of a stadium.

Levien is heading United’s stadium effort, which, during a decade of failed agreements and false hope, has left the club as one of the few in MLS without a new or renovated facility. United has been paying rent at RFK Stadium since 1996 and does not enjoy the revenue streams associated with a new venue.

United might have a strategically placed proponent at Pepco: Company president Thomas Graham, a Washington native, was a goalkeeper at the University of Tampa, signed with the NASL’s Jacksonville Tea Men in 1984 and served as an assistant coach at Georgetown University from 1986 to 2005.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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