Saved! MLS Reaches Deal To Sell Columbus Crew
The Crew has been saved. Major League Soccer announced Friday that it reached an agreement with investors to purchase and take control of the Columbus Crew beginning next month.
The deal has been led by Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, the Edwards family of Columbus, and the Columbus Partnership. Under the plan, announced earlier this month, the Crew will remain in Columbus and investors will construct a new downtown stadium in the Arena District.
“After several months of discussions, we are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement in principle with the Haslam and Edwards families for them to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and operate Columbus Crew SC starting in January, 2019," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a statement.
Investors are expected to pay $645 million total for the team and stadium. Of that, $150 million will go toward buying the team from current owner Anthony Precourt. In addition, MAPFRE Stadium - the home of the Crew since 1999 - will be converted into a community sports complex and practice facility for the team.
Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer cheered the news in a statement Friday.
“In October of 2017, our community faced the seemingly impossible task of keeping Columbus Crew SC where it belongs," the statement reads. "Today, we are proud to announce an achievement many said was unattainable: The Columbus Crew is saved."
MLS had given Columbus until the end of the year to finalize the deal. The final announcement was preceeded by a flurry of activity on all sides.
Earlier this month, Columbus City Council and Franklin County Commissioners approved memorandums of understanding that promised $50 million each toward the development of the new stadium site.
On Friday, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced the city and state of Ohio would drop their lawsuit against Precourt Sports Ventures and MLS, in order to allow the purchase to move forward. Klein and Attorney General Mike DeWine argued that "Modell Law" prevents teams playing in publicly-funded stadiums from leaving without giving locals a chance to buy it.
“From the start, this litigation was about keeping the Crew in Columbus, and I believe we are finally there,” Klein wrote in a statement on Twitter.
Klein said the lawsuit, which was dismissed with prejudice, could be revived if the deal falls through.
Along with selling the Crew, Precourt reached a deal with MLS to start up the Austin FC franchise. He signed a lease with Austin City Council for a new stadium site last week.
“We are pleased with the lawsuit dismissal and the outcome that will ensure Major League Soccer teams in both Austin and Columbus," Precourt said on Friday.
MLS also announced that the Haslam and Edwards families are working to hire a new head coach, after Gregg Berhalter left to lead the U.S. Men's National Team.