Jason Levien, D.C. United’s managing general partner, is assembling a group of investors from his ownership circle at Premier League club Swansea City to help form the MLS team’s new slate of shareholders, the Insider has learned.
The group seems likely to include American businessman Steve Kaplan, Levien’s primary partner and money man at Swansea City. He has also been a co-owner of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies since 2012.
The number of other Swansea figures to invest in United, one person familiar with the situation said, hinges on whether Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong reaches a deal with Levien. Without Soon-Shiong, three or four from the Swansea group would probably invest in United; otherwise, it’s likely going to be two or three.
The Swansea consortium includes more than two dozen individuals, ranging from Los Angeles Rams co-owner Chip Rosenbloom (6.3 percent) to actress Mindy Kaling (1 percent) and former U.S. national team star Landon Donovan (0.4 percent).
On April 6, the Federal Trade Commission posted a proposed deal involving Soon-Shiong and United’s majority shareholder, Erick Thohir. No details were included, other than that the transaction would involve Levien’s Black Eagle Investment Group. Such FTC notices are common in large-scale deals, even if they do not come to fruition.
Sources said Levien is buying Thohir’s 78 percent share in United to form a new investment team. Thohir, a Indonesian businessman who has been largely detached from United’s operations, might retain a small stake.
Levien — who has a home in Washington and oversaw the political tasks in getting a new stadium built in Southwest D.C. — is expected to remain the face of the operation. He has the remaining 22 percent share, a figure that could rise in a diversified investment group.
Levien is representing United at the MLS board of governors meetings in Los Angeles this week. He is tentatively scheduled to meet with Soon-Shiong on Wednesday, one source said. Levien said he did not want to comment. Soon-Shiong, a billionaire who recently purchased the Los Angeles Times, has yet to speak publicly about his possible role. MLS Commissioner Don Garber did not respond to requests for comment.
United addressed the matter last week, saying the organization “has been evaluating different strategic opportunities to add to our ownership. As is our policy, we will not comment on any specific potential investment.”
MLS actually owns all 23 teams, but league investors are awarded operating rights to individual clubs. Thohir and Levien have been involved with United since July 2012 and, four years later, bought out long-term partner Will Chang.
United’s value has increased in recent years — Forbes estimated it at $230 million last summer, a 48 percent rise since 2016 — as the club prepares to move into 20,000-capacity Audi Field this summer. Thohir and Levien are spending about $250 million; the city contributed $150 million for land acquisition and infrastructure. United played its first 22 seasons at run-down RFK Stadium.
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