October 30, 2014
By Blair Angulo
RED CARPET TREATMENT
Star studded ownership on hand for LAFC intro
Special to LA Soccer News
LOS ANGELES -- With the world famous Hollywood sign serving as a backdrop to a rooftop mixer, the first scene for new MLS team LAFC was written.
|Los Angeles Football Club's ownership group is introduced by MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
Photo courtesy of MLS
The character list was vast, with club managing partner Henry Nguyen, executive chairman Peter Guber and president Tom Penn headlining a 22-person ownership group that was officially welcomed by MLS commissioner Don Garber on Thursday afternoon, just four days after Chivas USA played their final game of a 10-season tenure.
There wasn’t much of a storyline -- the team’s name and colors are admittedly still a work in progress and the owners have yet to find a site for their new soccer-specific stadium -- but the introductory press conference certainly set the stage for what could come in the inaugural 2017 season.
“We’re coming in at a point in time when we’re on a rocketship,” said Nguyen, an entrepreneur of private equity firm IDG Ventures Vietnam who has partnered with Asia-based co-owners Ruben Amir Gnanalingam and Vincent Tan. “The MLS is a terrific league and incredibly well managed with wonderful ownership, and we’re really proud to be a part of that now. We really believe we can take the game of soccer in America to where the MLS, really I see no reason why even within a decade's time it can be one of the top football leagues in the world. That’s what we’re all buying into. That’s why we want our fans and stakeholders here to come along with us. It’s going to be one heck of a ride.”
Plans for the team, according to Nguyen, Guber and Penn, start with selecting the perfect stadium site. The group is in the process of gathering potential landing spots in the greater Los Angeles area, including Orange County.
What they do know is that the venue will be fully funded by the ownership group, which also features NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, two-time Women's World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist Mia Hamm Garciaparra, former Major League shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, best-selling author and self-help guru Tony Robbins and YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley, among many others.
Nguyen said he would want to lock down a location within a calendar year so they could break ground by early 2016.
“We need that home pitch,” Nguyen said. “We have the resources, experience and capital to do this, the important thing is now to reach out to our constituency in the greater Los Angeles market, and really figure out where is the best place for us to be to really serve our supporters and do this the right way.”
The initial plan is for the capacity to be around 25,000, and the estimated budget is $150 million.
“Now we start to build -- we’ll build our brand, our bond with the fans and build a building, with all the capital thanks to our partners,” Penn said. “The only thing we don’t have to build right now is the team that is going to build the team. We have the core group together here.”
Though banners and scarves with the LAFC name were designed around a black and red color scheme, the branding has yet to be determined.
LAFC, according to several owners, is the name, but it’s still a fluid name. The club has set up a website, www.lafc.com, and a Twitter account, @LAFC, where potential fans are encouraged to weigh in and join the conversation.
“We want our fans to become LA originals; that’s what they’re coming in as,” Nguyen said. “We want to see them start that momentum, and then we’re going to turn it over to them.”
While Chivas USA was undoubtedly constructed to appeal to the city’s vast Latino demographic, LAFC owners said they intend to take a different approach. They want to be all-inclusive and bring a city together, something now defunct Chivas USA struggled with until their final day.
“When you wire together Henry and his partners over in Asia, Peter and his links here, and Tom’s experience, this is a money group,” Garber said. “This is a group that will help us achieve our strategy and help us have a very, very strong rival for the LA Galaxy and hopefully replicate what we have in Seattle, Vancouver and Portland, to create a Cup format that will hopefully live on with tremendous passion.”