In the midst of the team’s worst losing streak this season, a piece of long-standing speculation has been upgraded to rumor, and this time from the pages of one of America’s most trusted newspapers. Michael de la Merced and Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times are reporting that Jason Levien and Erick Thohir are looking at selling part or all of D.C. United.
Initially, Thohir and Levien were interested in selling the 35% of the team formerly owned by Will Chang, D.C. United’s previous majority owner; after selling his majority stake in 2013, Chang sold the rest of his interest in the team to Thohir and Levien in October 2016. However, apparently during the process of looking to sell Chang’s stake the two also looked into selling a majority or all of their interest in the team.
The two names that have popped are are two names with which D.C. area sports fans are intimately familiar: Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, and Dan Synder, owner of the Washington NFL Team. Leonsis has long been an owner for whom D.C. United fans have pined: he is available to the press, well-known locally, and has gotten mostly respect for his treatment of the teams.
Dan Synder would be a horrible situation for the team and for the league. His combination of micromanagment and lack of sports knowledge would be an even worse combination in soccer. Let us hope that this is the last time that we ever hear his name connected to United.
The authors of the article also caution that this is just the exploratory phase and there very well may be no sale at all; there are also unnamed potential investors from Asia.
The current ownership group has been the subject of controversy since they first bought the team. On the good side of the ledger, they were the first group able to build a stadium in the District of Columbia, which saved the team from moving to Northern Virginia, Baltimore, or even further away. This existential crisis cannot be underestimated.
On the other hand, they have been loathe to invest significant amounts of money on the roster while the team has been losing multiple millions of dollars per year due to playing at RFK Stadium; heading into this season and especially during this transfer window, that lack of spending has been noticed in the on-the-field product. it is yet to be seen if Thohir and Levien will actually sell the team, but if they do they’re legacy will be complicated to evaluate.
Update: Sources close to the situation have told Black & Red United that the talks are focused on replacing Will Chang’s ownership stake, and not a wholesale ownership change. They state that Erick Thohir and Jason Levien are committed to a long-term investment in D.C. United.