This rumor has been out there for a couple of weeks, and I have chosen to ignore it so far. I don't want to just throw every rumor out there, no matter where it comes from; that is an insult to you, our readers. However, more information keeps bubbling up to the surface, and some circumstantial evidence makes it at least worth mentioning.
The rumor, as first reported by Steven Goff, is that Erick Thohir, Indonesian media magnate and part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, is interested in buying a part (and perhaps a significant part) of D.C. United. After Goff reported it, the same rumor made the rounds on other sites as well, hitting ESPN, Tribal Football, and Big Soccer in the days afterwards. When asked, Will Chang obviously had no comment.
However, more information has come out this week, albeit from another unconfirmed source. According to a listener to the Best Soccer Show, who lives in Indonesia, these talks are in the very late stages and are for a significant part of D.C. United. His rumor also includes the notion that some sort of reality show could be a part of this deal as well, but who knows in what form. This rumors are not sourced, but this prompted me to do some more digging, as this is a second source that gives even more information. Obviously, I didn't find anything to directly link Thohir to United, but I didn't expect to. What I did find is that Erick Thohir seems to be the type of person who would invest in MLS, regardless of any rumored connections with D.C. United.
Erick Thohir is a media magnate, one of the founders of the Mahaka Group, which seems to be the Indonesian AEG. They have an entertainment unit, an advertising unit, a sports promotion unit, and own newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations across Indonesia. Thohir is also president of Visi Media Asia, another media conglomerate, which last summer had an IPO that valued the company at over $500 million. Their highest rated programming? Soccer.
Thohir's Mahaka Group also organized LA Galaxy's Indonesian tour this past offseason. A subsidiary, Mahaka Sports, was involved in tickets sales, promotions, and getting sponsors for the event. The front page of their website still has the event information for that match, which has an impressive looking list of sponsors. Some of them, such as the Republika newspaper, are also owned by Mahaka, but Thohir said before that match that "In terms of broadcasting and sponsorship, we are doing well." There have also been rumors, before this one involving D.C. United, that Thohir has been interested in buying a foreign soccer team. As an owner of the 76ers, Thohir is already involved in the US sports market and so would not be a stranger buying into something brand new.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Inner Circle Sports, the "boutique investment bank focused on the global sports industry" that is helping Will Chang find investors, helped advise the new ownership group, which includes Thohir, when they bought the 76ers in 2011. This group has also worked on the sales of Sheffield Wednesday FC, Liverpool, Sunderland, and Real Salt Lake.
What does this all mean right now? Nothing, of course. We have heard similar rumors, and rumors that seemed more solid, pass by without another mention. But the fact that this keeps bubbling up, and that it becomes more and more specific over the course of time, makes me at least mention it. If more solid rumors (or facts) start to come out, maybe then we can talk about what this could mean for the team going forward.