Thursday, 19 March 2009

Barcelona could invest in Philadelphia MLS team

author: Tripp Mickle
source: Sports Business Journal
date: 16 March 2009

FC Barcelona is exploring an investment in MLS’s Philadelphia expansion franchise, which has been seeking new capital for months in an effort to further strengthen an ownership group fronted by iStar Financial CEO Jay Sugarman.

Joan Laporta, president of FC Barcelona, visited Philadelphia on 28 February and toured the site of the franchise’s future stadium being constructed in Chester, Pennsylvania. The tour took place days before FC Barcelona announced it wouldn’t pursue an expansion franchise in Miami.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber declined to comment on the visit but said: "FC Barcelona has expressed for some time an interest in Major League Soccer financially and strategically. They spent a great deal of time with us looking at Miami and are continuing to look at opportunities around the league."

MLS Philadelphia CEO Nick Sakiewicz said he didn’t discuss investing in the franchise with Laporta but acknowledged that the Philadelphia franchise is still looking for strategic partners. "That’s always been part of our plan and it hasn’t changed," Sakiewicz said.

FC Barcelona is just the latest in a string of potential investors to look at the team over the last few months. Looking ahead, there’s concern in MLS ownership circles about operating expenses and losses once the franchise begins play. FC Barcelona or other minor investors could alleviate some of that concern. Details about the size of any future investment remain unknown.

FC Barcelona has been seeking entry into MLS since last fall when it partnered with cell-phone magnate Marcelo Claure to bid on an expansion team in Miami. The club and MLS pulled the plug on the bid in early March because of "adverse market conditions" in Miami. But investing in Philadelphia would offer the Spanish club an easier, more affordable entry.

The Philadelphia franchise already has been approved by the board, secured a stadium and established a small staff headed by an experienced MLS veteran in Sakiewicz, who said that the continued interest from investors spoke to the strength of the club’s ownership group and deal with county and state.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
FCB Miami: Bid for MLS team withdrawn

Barcelona will open youth academy in Brazil
Sponsorship deal with Arab telecom company

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