Hunt family announce sale of Columbus Crew to Bay Area investor

Columbus Crew crest

By JUSTIN FERGUSON

After 17-and-a-half seasons under the management of the Lamar Hunt family, the Columbus Crew are stepping into a new ownership era for the first time in club history.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Crew announced Precourt Sports Ventures, a sports investment group based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, had acquired the league charter member’s full operating rights, effective immediately.

“We have long believed in the ascension of soccer in the American sports-entertainment world, so stepping into a Charter Member of the League is an incredible moment,” PSV managing partner Anthony Precourt said. “We thank the Hunt family for having the trust in us to become the Crew’s new steward.”

Clark Hunt, chairman of Hunt Sports Group, said his family started looking for minority owners in the team a few years ago, but Precourt and PSV were interested in buying the entire franchise.

After owning charter franchises in Columbus and Kansas City, Hunt Sports Group will now be in charge of just one MLS team, FC Dallas. In Columbus, the late Lamar Hunt decided to build the league’s first soccer-specific stadium, opening Crew Stadium in 1999.

“Although we are very pleased to welcome Anthony to MLS, today is somewhat bittersweet for our family because of how much we love the Crew,” Hunt said in a statement. “On behalf of my entire family, I want to thank the city of Columbus, the state of Ohio, the Crew players, coaches and staff, and most importantly, the Crew supporters for cultivating one of the most iconic clubs in MLS and allowing us to be a part of it.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, Precourt said he was “very committed” to the city of Columbus. City mayor Michael B. Coleman said his first question to Precourt was if the team was staying in Columbus, to which Precourt responded, “Absolutely.”

Precourt said PSV had purchased 100 percent of the team. The former investment banker, who is a managing partner at investment company Precourt Capital Management, did not disclose the purchase price on Tuesday.

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What do you think of this news? Excited to see new ownership in Columbus and MLS? Surprised to see the Hunt family sell another one of their charter franchises? Did you expect a different type of announcement from the Crew?

Share your thoughts below.

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72 Responses to Hunt family announce sale of Columbus Crew to Bay Area investor

  1. Jeremy says:

    Another Euro club owning an MLS team… oh wait, different PSV.

  2. Jacknut says:

    New stadium request in 3…2…1…

    Good for the Crew and the Nordecke

    • Frank says:

      A new stadium is not the biggest concern right now…I think those discussion can be had in another 7 to 10 years.

  3. Colin in MT says:

    Another step in the right direction for the league. If this new ownership group is half as proactive as the one that took over in Kansas City, the Crew and the league will only benefit.

  4. Mike in Missouri says:

    Does Anschutz still own 2 teams? That’s the only multi-ownership situation, correct?

    • DeLarge says:

      Yeah, The Galaxy and Dynamo — although I think the Dynamo is split with Oscar de la Hoya having a minority stake. AEG owns 100% of the Galaxy.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Houston: I believe it’s AEG 50%, Golden Boy 25%, Brener-something 25%.

      Houston was on the block for individual sale, then pulled back for sale with the rest of AEG, and then AEG decided not to sell. I don’t know if the Michael Jackson issues are an impediment or if Anschutz just decided not to retire for a few more years. So I think there is still some potential fluidity in the situation.

  5. Münster says:

    DOWNTOWN STADIUM!

  6. David says:

    I searched for PSV (not the Dutch club) on Google only found this company as existing for 9 months. That doesn’t seem like they have “long believed in the ascension of soccer”…blah, blah, blah. Let’s see if they splash out for some new players, stadium upgrades, and perhaps a new manager. Right now this is a moribund team with little personality on the field only lifted by the great support from the Nordecke.

    • OPMG says:

      The company PSV has only existed for nine months, but that’s just a branch of his investment company that was recently created. The business entity has been around a lot longer, just the PSV bit is new.

      In other news, the Precourt guy seemed to say all the right things, which is more than we’ve seen from other owners (Chivas USA). But this feels like a good move for MLS and Columbus, there’s no motivation to buy if there aren’t plans to improve the team and the organization. It’s not a money maker, so we know it won’t be all about revenue.

    • Sam says:

      Should have shown up for those business 101 classes David.

  7. baropbop says:

    Sorry but I gotta call BS on this one. No way they want to keep them in Columbus

    • Hopper says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Columbus doesn’t exactly light the league up with its attendance numbers.

      • Colin in MT says:

        People said the same thing about Kansas City, and look what that new ownership group has been able to accomplish.

        • White Kix says:

          But, aren’t the KC owners from KC. This guy is from San Fran. Not saying that means he will move them, just that it is a more likely possibility than it was with KC.

      • baropbop says:

        People put wayyyyy too much stock in attendance numbers. They are hardly the leagues priority. It’s about TV audiences and being an appealing destination for international players. Getting a big time DP to live in Columbus is never going to happen.

        • Annelid Gustator says:

          Fans. Fans. Fans. Starts and ends. The fans are the product that the team delivers to the advertisers.

          • baropbop says:

            Nope. They already have the fans either way. The market is the casual observer or general sports fan. Either way if you want to have one of the top 5 leagues in the world with growing numbers of international players…you don’t build franchises in Columbus, Salt Lake, etc. If it was just about the fans there would have been a team in North Carolina or Orlando or Saint Louis a long time ago. There will always be room for a few of the Portland and KCs…but that’s hardly the priority.

            • Annelid Gustator says:

              Fans don’t have to be at the game, and I never said they did. Nor do they have to be superfans to count.

              Also there are both national and local aspects to advertisement–even in the big money leagues.

              At the end of the money trail there are two things: putting the eyeballs of fans on ads, and selling branded stuff to fans (which is often just another way to put eyes on ads).

            • OPMG says:

              That seems like a pretty ridiculous comment. The location of the franchises will not determine if the league is successful or not.

              • Annelid Gustator says:

                Well, there’s the media market aspect. You want a national tv deal, you better cover most of the biggies and not waste too much shot on the little-uns.

        • Mensrea says:

          Except for GBS, arguably the most successful foreign import in league history.

          That being said, I’d be nervous if I were a Crew fan.

          • baropbop says:

            True. Even if they get Columbus back to its peak with fans that’s still a pretty low ceiling. Especially for a venture group. Tradition and the existing stadium are the only reasons to stay…and I can’t imagine that means much to someone who is looking for a return on a massive investment.

          • The Imperative Voice says:

            I still remember Schelotto looking a little subdued n photos at the first news conference. He was leaving his Argentine team with all the history. But he did sign and play like he cared and win, and that’s what matters.

  8. Ceez says:

    I guess I’ll have to expedite my pilgrimage to Crew Stadium before it’s altered. Changes are to be expected with new ownership and I feel like Crew Stadium will be on that list.

  9. MLSfan says:

    San Francisco Crew

    • Gnarls says:

      Pretty certain MLS would put the kibosh on that idea before it ever left the ground.

    • doug says:

      I WISH they would bring a team to SF. Candlestick Park land is opening up soon!

    • Left Wing says:

      It does make me wonder about jurisdiction rights etc..
      I wonder how a Berkeley/east bay team would do.
      I know Sacramento is making noise about wanting a team..

      I’d hate to see it for Columbus but it’d be interesting.

    • tim says:

      San Francisco Village People

  10. Naugles says:

    I hope they ditch the boy-band name and butch logo.

    • hayyy says:

      They won’t have to if they move to SF

      • Esteban de la Sexface says:

        ZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • jonf says:

        I read comment laughed, stopped laughed again, thought about something else and than the comment came back into my mind laughed again. reflected, funniest thing i have heard or read in months by far.

    • Frank says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see some changes coming NEXT season. As was stated above, they don’t have the soccer/MLS pedigree so they will have to rely on other people’s experience and will hopefully be careful not to be too rash but with their private equity background they will be making changes.

    • Gnarls says:

      I like the name but hate the logo. Crew is a unique name in this league.

  11. Matthew says:

    I’m a Crew season ticket holder, and I’m not nervous about the team moving. I think this is all positive. The old ownership was loyal to a fault, cheap and slow. They were critical to the development of the sport and the league, but their time has passed. New blood and a new attitude is what the team now needs.

  12. John says:

    They could always change their name to PSV Columbus, now. The actual Dutch club might have issues with that, though.

  13. Pedro says:

    Bummer! As a Dallas native, I was really hoping the Hunts would sell FC Dallas. I can’t watch them on TV and the stadium is way out of town. Congrats to Columbus. At least you guys won’t be status-quo anymore.

    • Frank says:

      Thanks. As a Crew fan, I’m excited about this change.

      • Charles says:

        As a SuperSonics fan I think you should be nervous, but I very much hope I am wrong.

    • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

      The Hunt group was great when the league started. But you’re right. FC Dallas needs a new front office. Stadium is in a horrible location, their games are played on an obscure channel only to Tine Warner Cable customers, and you mainly see soccer moms at their games. We need radical change in how this team markets its self. I wish the Hunts sold FC Dallas, theyre stuck in 2003.

      • Annelid Gustator says:

        the Hunts truly are giants of American soccer.

      • tim says:

        FCD soccer mom is NOT the attendance you see now. Location is NOT relevant as the team buses you in and out of the stadium and there is major highway access.

        TWC deal is a giant POS but it’s money, and that money is part of what’s bringing in better talent and helping to provide a better team.

    • tim says:

      The stadium isn’t that bad of a drive, I made it weekly from S FTW BEFORE 121 and DNT were up and running. Crying about stadium location now is only showing your laziness and lack of desire to show support to your local club. Hell the club provides bus service from a few locations for $20, and that prince includes the ticket to the game!

  14. Gnarls says:

    Anyone venture to guess how much the club sold for?

    • Mike says:

      Great question I was going to ask the same thing. Last year it was reported that DC United was valued at 50 million when Erick Thohir and Jason Levien bought 40% of the team. Thus you could make the argument that DC is worth more then the Crew (bigger market etc.) However with the value of MLS teams going up by 15% per year. Source:

      link to forbes.com

      Bottom line I guess I’m saying is I bet it was close to 50-60 million ball park.

    • Sly says:

      Its probably gonna eventually come out but we can ball park it. If new franchises are worth $100 mil fee (so maybe assume ~$50 mil) plus they own their own stadium another (not $250 mil Sporting KC stadium) $150 mil plus players colors everything else ~ 50 mil. I’d say atleast $200mil maybe even ~250 mil if they anticipate a better TV deal than what they have now.

      I assume they lost some potential profits due to attendance and being in a “small market” and the tv contract just going into effect so no big raises for another 10 years, unfunded liabilities like taxes or insurance premiums and the cost of actually running an mls franchise.

  15. Eugene says:

    He should consider moving the team to Pittsburgh. It’s a larger market, with a rabid sports fan base that apparently has some interest in MLS. The Crew wouldn’t even have to change the team’s colors.

    • Mark says:

      Pittsburgh really isn’t a large metro area then Columbus.

    • Snack Time says:

      Not a good idea. Pittsburgh already has a USL pro team, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. They even recently got a soccer-specific stadium which is actually accessible to Pittsburghers, in addition to being downtown. They are on their way up and don’t need to be muscled out by Columbus.

  16. Woah says:

    Bay Area united!!

  17. byob el paso tx says:

    Finally, now lets find new owners for fc dallas, houston, chicago(once again) and who else?
    If i was the new owner, i ould have asked garber to put relocation within 5-7years (like 2020) in the contract, if crew would not get a new stadium. Then eventually do what kansas did with their team, new name and logo and stadium :), if not, afte 5 to 7 years of lobbying for a SSS around downtown or a proper location, start thinking about san Francisco (new 49niners stadium), vegas or even phoenix, since they are a west coast company. But what about cleveland or like someone said, Pittsburgh. By the way, all columbus fans say, crew stadium is in a good location and the stadium is not that bad. Are guys serious?

  18. JCSuperstar says:

    one less club owned by the crappy Hunt Sports Group (now crappy because of Hunt Jr, no disrespect to the OG Hunt) is a move in the right direction. now if they’ll just sell FC Dallas we’d be getting somewhere … oh and if Vergara would sell ChivasUSA and Kraft would sell NE Revolution the league could move forward free of the dead weight that are the three biggest dead beat owners and albatrosses to the league’s growth.

  19. Gilby says:

    I think its nothing but positive owners controlling multiple teams was a necessity ten years ago but I think hinders the development of the league now. As we shift ever so slowly away from a hard cap and single entity the multiple team one owners could create some nasty conflicts of interest.

  20. Hogatroge says:

    An Aside:

    I’ve always liked Columbus’ crest, but now that I look at it closely, it’s in bad need of an update. It doesn’t even freaking say “Columbus” on it.

    They need to refurbish it… keep the same motif, but make the text a little less minimalist and give it a layer of professional polish so it doesn’t look like it was made in MS Paint (which it might have been).

  21. Enos says:

    First job. Restore the endzone area from it’s current silly perma stage state.

  22. Excellency says:

    I worry that mls will turn into yet another money machine – Ny City FC was the start – where guys with dough pick the low hanging fruit and congratulate themselves on how much money they are taking in.

    I wonder who is looking after the interest of the average fan in Columbus. My guess is “nobody”.

  23. Tim says:

    Wow the people on here who comment about the team moving and Columbus being a bad soccer market need to shot! New ownership is a good thing and there is not reason to believe that this could not be just like the KC revival in time. It’s unreal how dumb soccer fans in this country actually are…..or it’s amazing how confident people feel behind a keyboard!

    • petedx says:

      It’s not really dumb as much as it is self loathing. If anything defines US soccer fans it is looking at the negative or the what it “should be like”. It’s really annoying and the sooner we get over it the better.

  24. Ron says:

    Yeah the Crew are so iconic no one goes to their games. I don’t care what the official attendance figures are, that Stadium is always empty, even when the Crew are playing well.

    Here’s to hoping the new owners will turn around the Crew’s perennially poor turnstile numbers. But that likely won’t happen until they move the team to another city. It is pretty clear Columbus is and always will be a crap soccer town.

    • DCLee says:

      WOW. It is clear your not a morning person Ron. The Crew have a very strong core of great supporters and aren’t always the best in attendance but are respectable. I would like to see more fans at their games just like I’d like to see more fans at D.C. united matches but for anyone to question their support knows nothing about the history of their team or the league.

      I do agree with you that it would be nice to see more fans come out considering they have a situation similar to Portland where it is only the Crew and the Blue Jacket(NHL) in Columbus but it is a different demographic where a lot of the young people go home during the summer and then attend Ohio State games in the fall rather than Crew games but they still have a very loyal core. Anyone that has ever been to a MLS SuperDraft, MLS Cup, MLS All Star game, etc… can see this. There are always a good amount of Crew supporters at these events supporting the league.

      I believe they are trying to accomplish the right things and if they ever get a big name to Columbus or re locate that stadium then there could be even bigger things for their future.

      This could be the start with the new owners so no need for the negativity and I think the USA-Mexico game being held in Ohio every time because they know the U.S. fans will be out in full force is enough to realize that Columbus is far from a “crap soccer town”.

  25. dan says:

    I hope they rebrand, what a terrible logo and name.