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D.C. United says it’s seeking additional investors but not selling the team

(DCU)

D.C. United’s primary investor said Sunday that he is seeking additional partners but has no plans to sell his majority stake in the MLS organization.

Erick Thohir, United’s general partner, told the Insider that he is “open to finding a good partner to make the club better.”

“If we don’t find anyone who is really good for our team, we won’t bring one in,” he said from his home in Jakarta, Indonesia. “We’re looking for someone who brings value.”

Thohir denied a New York Times story that, citing anonymous sources, said he and managing general partner Jason Levien are “quietly weighing a sale of the franchise.”

“No, not true,” he told the Insider.

Multiple MLS executives said they had no knowledge of Thohir selling the team.

Last month, Thohir told the Insider that “we’re open to new partners. It’s part of the business.” He also said at the time that he and Levien were not seeking to flip their investment.

Thohir and his silent partners abroad own 80 percent of United’s operating rights, while Levien, who is based in Washington, controls 20 percent. Last fall, they purchased a 35 percent stake in the team from Will Chang, a San Francisco-based executive.

United has received inquiries from a Chinese group about buying a minority stake in the team.

Thohir also is a part-owner of Italian club Inter Milan. Levien has a stake in Swansea City, a Welsh club in England’s Premier League.

Thohir is working with Raine Group, a boutique sports investment firm with offices in New York and Shanghai, to identify potential partners for United.

United’s investors said that, contrary to the Times story, they have not reached out to Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards and Capitals, or to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

Last year, Leonsis told The Post that he regretted not investing in United.

“I looked at buying it outright 10 years ago. I wish I had. I made a mistake,” he said. “And I couldn’t, to be honest with you, because I had so much to do and so many losses financially to cover with the Caps and Wizards that it was impossible to envision the heavy lift of doing that. And in hindsight, I wish I did.”

In MLS, individuals and groups invest in the league as a whole and are awarded operating rights to specific teams. (There are no franchises.) They are financially responsible for, among other things, day-to-day operations, staff payroll and, in many cases, stadium construction projects.

United’s investors are planning to spend about $250 million on a new stadium at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington, three blocks from National Park. Audi Field is scheduled to open next summer. Since 1996, United has played home matches at RFK Stadium, a run-down venue operated by EventsDC, the city’s convention and sports authority.

Initially, the team and city were slated to spend $150 million apiece on Audi Field. While legislation capped city spending at $150 million, United’s contribution has grown considerably because of various changes to the project and ancillary costs related to neighborhood development.

The added expense also includes plans for additional premium seating. United said it has sold, or received verbal commitments, for every available suite (31 in all — 29 for sale, plus one for the team and one for the city).

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