Owners have grand plans for new MLS club in LA
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Henry Nguyen and Peter Guber envision their new Major League Soccer team taking the field somewhere in the Los Angeles area in early 2017 in a sparkling new stadium filled with roaring fans.
All they need now is a team name, colors, logo, offices, an entire business infrastructure, coaches, executives and players for those fans to support.
And they need to find a place to build the entire stadium, preferably in the next two years.
Nguyen, Guber and their partners in the tentatively named Los Angeles Football Club are confident they have the passion — and the deep pockets — necessary to realize all of these dreams before they take the field.
“We are building a brand-new, bright and shiny club, which is very exciting,” said Nguyen, the business mogul who will serve as the managing partner.
The LAFC ownership group and MLS Commissioner Don Garber held their first public event Thursday at a Hollywood studio on Sunset Boulevard, revealing a diverse lineup of businesspeople and sports luminaries eager to capitalize on soccer’s ever-growing North American profile with a second MLS club in the nation’s second-largest city.
“We’re coming in (to MLS) at a point in time where we’re on a rocket ship,” Nguyen said. “MLS is a terrific league, incredibly well-managed, and I don’t see any reason why in a decade’s time it can’t be one of the top football leagues in the world.”
While Nguyen is in charge, LAFC has financial backing from Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, the Cardiff City owner who will serve as an LAFC director. ESPN basketball analyst Tom Penn will be the club’s president, and film producer Guber provides local connections along with his wealth.
LAFC is an expansion franchise with no ties to Chivas USA, which was folded by MLS this week after a mostly miserable 10-year run in the shadow of the LA Galaxy, an original MLS franchise with four championships and a history including Landon Donovan and David Beckham.
Rather than worrying about local competition, Nguyen sees the Galaxy as a complement to LAFC’s plans.
“We are ready, willing and able to build a significant rivalry with the LA Galaxy,” Nguyen said. “There’s plenty of room for the two of us. We respect what they’ve done very much. They’ve got four Cups, and they’re maybe on their way to a fifth. We’ve got a lot to prove, but that rivalry is going to be one of our first priorities. We don’t want to be second in L.A. to anybody.”
Garber was determined to keep a second team in Southern California despite Chivas’ paltry attendance, and Nguyen’s group beat out stiff competition for the chance to own it. Garber connected Nguyen with Guber during a meeting in Beijing a few years ago, and Nguyen got Tan involved through their relationship from a Southeast Asian basketball league.
“Los Angeles is a huge market with a lot of folks that really love the game, and we believe our sport is going to grow with passionate rivalries,” Garber said. “It didn’t work with Chivas USA because the whole formula didn’t make sense. That formula exists here.”
The LAFC group largely consists of wealthy West Coasters connected to Guber, the Hollywood polymath with ownership stakes in the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Golden State Warriors.
It includes Magic Johnson, another Dodgers co-owner; YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and motivational guru Tony Robbins, two of Guber’s friends; ex-baseball star Nomar Garciaparra and his soccer legend wife, Mia Hamm; several Warriors figures, including team President Rick Welts; and several senior Hollywood executives from Dick Clark Productions, Mandalay Entertainment Group and other companies.
Although LAFC hasn’t chosen a site for its soccer-specific arena with roughly 25,000 seats, Penn said the group is “fully funded to build a stadium.” Nguyen confirmed Tan will play a major role in what’s likely to be an accelerated construction process.
The group is thought to be looking at land near the Coliseum downtown, perhaps on the site of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, or another Westside parcel near Hollywood Park.
Penn said LAFC will allow fans to have input on every aspect of their branding, right down to the colors. Their initial promotional materials feature “LAFC” in red type — a color with special meaning for a team owned by Tan, who infuriated Cardiff City fans in 2012 when he changed the Bluebirds’ home colors from blue to red and added a dragon to their crest in an attempt to appeal to Asian markets.
Nguyen said the red LAFC lettering wasn’t a sneak preview, but actually “a little joke” from him to Tan.
“We’re going to let all the real intense soccer bloggers discover that,” Nguyen said with a laugh. “We were going to put a little hidden dragon in there somewhere, too.”