Cleveland investment banking firm Western Reserve Partners LLC has been hired by Hunt Sports Group to sell a minority ownership stake in the Columbus Crew soccer team to one or more local investors. Clark Hunt, chairman of Texas-based Hunt Sports Group, said in a news release that Western Reserve Partners will pursue investors who share his family’s “passion for soccer and commitment to seeing the sport grow and flourish in central Ohio, as well as (Hunt Sports Group’s) long-term investment philosophy.” Mr. Hunt said Hunt Sports Group selected Western Reserve Partners because of the firm’s “successful track record and close relationships with business leaders in Columbus and throughout the state.” The Hunt family will continue to own a majority share of the team and 11-year-old Columbus Crew Stadium. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the move “comes less than two years after a bid to acquire a minority share of the team by Las Vegas businessman Mark Noorzai and a group of local investors fizzled.” The Crew had 35 local investors who owned a combined 39% interest in the team in 1996, the first year of operation for Major League Soccer, The Dispatch reports. By 1998, the team had 22 minority owners who owned a 45% stake. The Crew since has kept those numbers private, according to the Columbus newspaper. Like most other MLS teams, the Crew has never made a profit, The Dispatch reports, “although the multiuse stadium on the state fairgrounds has been a strong revenue producer, augmented by the addition of a permanent concert stage in 2008.”
Texas-based Hunt Sports Group, the Crew’s investor-operator, plans to strengthen the team’s ties to Columbus.
Majority owner Clark Hunt, son of late Crew and Major League Soccer founder Lamar Hunt, said Hunt Sports Group has hired the Cleveland-based investment bank Western Reserve Partners to sell a minority ownership stake in the team to one or more local investors.
The Hunt family will continue to own a majority share of the team and 11-year-old Columbus Crew Stadium.
The move comes less than two years after a bid to acquire a minority share of the team by Las Vegas businessman Mark Noorzai and a group of local investors fizzled.