D.C. United could be on the verge of having new ownership. Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg broke the news late tonight, reporting that NantWorks chairman and Los Angeles Lakers minority owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is close to purchasing United at a valuation of $500 million. Soon-Shiong would essentially replace Erick Thohir, with current Managing General Partner Jason Levien staying on:
BREAKING: billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong near deal to buy into @dcunited at $500M valuation, source says. He and managing partner Jason Levien buying Erick Thohir’s stake, source says. Levien will continue to run the @MLS club. Soon-Shiong owns piece of @Lakers #sportsbiz— Scott Soshnick (@soshnick) April 10, 2018
Following the reports, D.C. United offered the following comment to B&RU: “As we march towards the completion of Audi Field and providing what will be the most exciting experience in Major League Soccer, D.C. United has been evaluating different strategic opportunities to add to our ownership. As is our policy, we will not comment on any specific potential investment.”
The Washington Post’s Steve Goff added to the reports, stating that Thohir has already agreed to sell his majority stake in United, with Levien assembling an ownership group to take over. Goff also notes that Thohir might stay involved as a minority owner.
Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index says that the South Africa-born Soon-Shiong, 65, has a net worth of $8.25 billion (Forbes, meanwhile, lists him at $7.6 billion). To put this in perspective, Bloomberg ranks Soon-Shiong as the 182nd wealthiest person on the planet, well ahead of New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft and New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso, and about $2.75 billion behind Phillip Anschutz, who owns the LA Galaxy.
Soon-Shiong, through his investment firm Nant Capital, purchased the LA Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune last year for $500 million (not including $90 million of pension liabilities, which Nant Capital assumed in the deal). He became a minority owner of the Lakers in 2010, and has made his fortune largely through medical patents, including the cancer drug Abraxane, after starting out as a surgeon.
Last year, Forbes estimated United to be worth $230 million, though there are reasons to question the annual Forbes valuations of MLS teams. One must assume that the boost in valuation is entirely down to a move to Audi Field, which offers far more in the way of revenue streams and will not come with eye-watering lease terms. The New York Times reported that United began looking for new ownership last year.