Major League Soccer (MLS) is operated under a single-entity structure, where club operators own a financial stake in the league itself, and not just their individual teams. As with any company, those that invest their time and money often have a fair amount of weight to throw around when it comes to decision-making, depending on the company structure and how much that individual or group has contributed. This is no different with MLS. The club owners have a very large and powerful voice when it comes to league governance and other matters pertaining to the collective whole. But aside from a few of the bigger names, the companies and individuals involved with owning MLS clubs are largely unknown to the general public. This series’ goal will be to change that.
Over the course of the next several pieces Business of Soccer will attempt to introduce the ownership of MLS to the general public so that everyone can gain a better understanding of the men, women, and corporations behind the helm of their favorite clubs and the league.
Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG): Investor-operator of both Houston Dynamo and L.A. Galaxy. AEG is the principal owner of L.A. Galaxy and has a 50% stake in Houston Dynamo – former boxer Oscar De La Hoya and Gabriel Brener own the other half (who we’ll cover in another edition) – and is the only ownership group that has stake in multiple MLS clubs. AEG also has its hands involved with the NBA’s L.A. Lakers as well as the NHL’s L.A. Kings, along with the Staples Center, Home Depot Center, and StubHub Center. MLS isn’t the only league AEG is involved in with regard to soccer – it also owns Hammarby Football Club which competes in Sweden. According to Hoovers, AEG brings in approximately $13.9 million annually.
AEG is a sports and entertainment group and a wholly owned subsidiary of the Anschutz Company. It is one of the world’s largest sports team and stadium ownership groups, dabbling in just about every sport you can think of, including Galatasaray’s home stadium in Turkey, Turk Telecom Arena and the famous Estadio Maracanã in Brazil, among others. In recent months AEG has been rumored to be linked with a potential NFL franchise in the Los Angeles market, and has also been said to hold a lot of clout as to whether Las Vegas would be able to land any sports teams.
Hunt Sports Group: Investor-operator of FC Dallas. Hunt Sports Group are also involved with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, and were previously owners of MLS club Columbus Crew in addition to FC Dallas, but sold the club to Precourt Sports Ventures LLC in July of 2013.
The group was founded by none other than Lamar Hunt, who many would consider to be one of the fathers of modern-day professional soccer in the United States. After attending a World Cup match in England in 1966, Hunt brought back with him an insatiable desire to bring professional soccer to the US and founded one of the first professional soccer clubs in the states, the Dallas Tornado, along with the NASL. Today Hunt’s legacy lives on through all of the professional soccer leagues throughout the country, which is why the tournament for all pro clubs in the country, similar to the FA Cup in the UK, is named after him – the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
In our first edition of the MLS Ownership series we’ve covered one of the biggest names in all of sports, let alone MLS, as well as one of the most important figures in professional soccer in US history. Next time, we’ll take a look at two more groups who’ve found the family sports business to be quite beneficial.