David Beckham shopping partnership stake in MLS team

David Beckham is seeking deep-pocketed partners to help shoulder the estimated $300 million it will cost to build a stadium and field a high-quality team.
David Beckham is seeking deep-pocketed partners to help shoulder the estimated $300 million it will cost to build a stadium and field a high-quality team. EL NUEVO HERALD

David Beckham plans to be the face and chairman of the proposed Miami Major League Soccer team, but he might not wind up being the majority owner.

Beckham has spent the past six months spanning the globe in search of deep-pocketed equity partners to help shoulder the estimated $300 million it will cost to construct a new stadium, establish a front office and acquire high-quality players.

According to sources close to the negotiations, there has been “vast interest’’ from serious investors, including Russian business tycoon Roman Abramovich, the owner of English Premier League giant Chelsea; a Chinese group; a few Americans; and a couple of groups from the Middle East, including Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), which owns the top soccer team in the French league, Paris Saint Germain (PSG), for which Beckham played in 2013.

The Miami team needs to have its ownership and funding in place in order to close the stadium land deal.

Beckham’s group hopes to close the deal on a nine-acre stadium site on the west edge of Overtown by the end of February. The 25,000-seat stadium would sit at the corner of NW 6th Ave. and NW 7th St.

Beckham’s partner and lead negotiator, Tim Leiweke, is scheduled to meet with city and county officials on Wednesday to talk about building and zoning issues, community coalitions, and to iron out other details as they move toward the land purchase.

“We’re performing our due diligence on our stadium site as we move toward the acquisition of privately held property and a third county-owned parcel over the coming weeks,’’ said Tadd Schwartz, the Miami-based spokesman for Miami Beckham United.

In the meantime, negotiations continue with potential equity partners — who might want a majority share — and a deal is expected in the next few weeks. When Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, part of his contract was the option to buy an MLS franchise at a deep discount. Two years ago, he exercised that option, reportedly paying $20 million for a Miami team. Other MLS expansion teams in Portland, Orlando, Montreal and Vancouver sold for roughly $100 million.

The Chelsea ownership group would link Beckham’s team with one of the world’s most popular and successful clubs, and Russia’s 12th-richest person, Abramovich, whose net worth is estimated at $7.8 billion.

Beckham has a good relationship with PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a former pro tennis player who is also chairman of BeINSport Media Group, a global network of 22 sports TV channels that includes Miami-based BeINSports USA. BeINSport Media Group is the broadcast rights holder for the top soccer leagues in Spain, Italy and France, as well as all South American World Cup qualifying matches.

QSI acquired Paris Saint Germain in 2012 for $130 million and then invested an estimated $340 million into the club. Before long, the players on PSG’s starting roster were earning an average of $8.3 million, making the club the highest-paying and one of the most prestigious in the world.

Sources said Beckham is being very particular about selecting an equity group. He and his team prefer a partner who understands professional sports — particularly soccer — and would have the background and financial ability to help acquire elite players who will excite the discerning soccer-savvy South Florida audience. Pairing with a global soccer brand would give the Miami team instant credibility and international marketing reach.

He also wants a partner who will help fund a state-of-the-art training academy with internationally trained coaches who could develop local talent and establish ties with the South Florida youth and high school soccer communities.

The pairing of MLS teams with marquee European clubs has been discussed for quite some time. In 2008, FC Barcelona was in talks with Beckham’s current partner, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, about partnering on a team in Miami. That deal eventually fell through.

New York City FC, a new MLS team, is co-owned by English Premier League club Manchester City and the New York Yankees. They paid $100 million for the team and have signed well-known players such as David Villa of Spain, Frank Lampard of England and Andrea Pirlo of Italy.

Once the Beckham group has the equity group and stadium deal done, the MLS Board of Governors must vote on whether to approve the franchise and give the green light for the team to move forward toward a projected 2018 inaugural season.

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