David Beckham and his partners took another step toward securing a Major League Soccer team in Miami, revealing to league owners late Tuesday that their group has added billionaire Todd Boehly to help finance the project, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
Boehly is an American investment banker who is part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and chairman of Eldridge Industries, which counts among its holdings Hollywood Reporter and Billboard magazines and Dick Clark Productions.
The Beckham-led Miami MLS deal has been dragging on for more than three years, and league Commissioner Don Garber and other owners are getting increasingly frustrated.
One of the holdups was finding significant, reliable financial backing for the project, which is expected to top $300 million between stadium construction and the team startup. The involvement of Boehly should give Beckham’s group more credibility with MLS owners, who must approve the deal.
The MLS Board of Governors met in Colorado Springs on Tuesday to discuss a variety of topics, one of them being the Beckham ownership situation. No vote was taken, but the board will be reviewing the terms of the deal, and Boehly’s involvement, in the coming days. A vote is expected in the near future.
Garber said last Friday that a decision “has to be made this year,” or they will look elsewhere.
As part of Beckham’s contract when he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy as a player, he was promised a deeply-discounted franchise upon retirement. He reportedly will pay $25 million for a team, while owners of other new teams are paying $150 million. MLS is counting on Beckham’s international celebrity status to raise the global profile of the league. As owner of a team in Miami, his reach into Latin America is viewed as a valuable asset.
“I believe in the Miami market,” Garber said in New York City at a meeting with several of the nation’s sports editors. “There’s never been a successful international market that wasn’t a successful MLS market.”
But, he said, Beckham’s group had yet to fulfill the requirements necessary to have an MLS franchise – proper financing, a viable stadium plan in place and a solid ownership group.
Miami Beckham United — the name of the soccer icon’s investment group -- is backed by Beckham and partners Marcelo Claure (CEO of Sprint) and Simon Fuller (Beckham’s agent and a creator of “American Idol”). Boehly is now the fourth heavy hitter.
Tadd Schwartz, the Miami-based spokesman of the group, declined comment Wednesday night, but a statement may be released on Thursday.
Beckham announced his plans to bring MLS to Miami in February 2014. The plan has since fizzled at three would-be sites and a parcel of the current site in Overtown is still being negotiated.
In the meantime, Atlanta and Minnesota franchises joined MLS this season, and a 23rd team is scheduled for 2018 in Los Angeles.
“A decision has to be made this year,” Garber said. “David knows this, it’s time to move forward or not, and that time is upon us.”
If Miami falls through as the 24th team, it would open up a spot for one of the many teams vying to join the league.