PSV-HSG Press Conference Transcription

Remarks from today's Columbus Crew press conference

Anthony Precourt Mayor Coleman

Photo Credit: 
Greg Bartram - USA Today Sports Images

Hunt Sports Group’s Clark Hunt

Introduction:

The League started very strong in 1996 and so did the Columbus Crew. Unfortunately, a few years later the League started to slow down and there were a number of years where, honestly, I’m not sure that we [Hunt Sports Group] knew that we would be back in business the following year. There was one thing that happened that propelled the League on to success to where it is today and that was the construction of Crew Stadium in 1999. Against the odds and against the momentum of the League, my family made the decision to build Crew Stadium and as a result today there are 14 soccer-specific stadiums in Major League Soccer. The League continues to grow having announced its 20th franchise just a few months ago. Our time as owners of the Crew has been very special to our family; there’s been a lot of success on the field with two supporters’ cups, an MLS Cup, a US Open Cup – that of course bears my father’s name, Lamar Hunt. It’s truly been a huge part of our family for the last 18 years. I grew up in a lot of ways with Major League Soccer and with the Columbus Crew. In a minute, I’m going to announce the new owner of the Columbus Crew. As you guys know, we’ve been in a process over the last couple of years to find a minority investor, or several minority investors, in the Crew. As part of that process, we were introduced to Anthony Precourt. Anthony came to us and during the summer said: “You know what? I’m not just interested in being a minority owner of the Columbus Crew, I want to own the whole team and run and operate it”. We were initially very taken back by his interest, but after we got to know Anthony, we concluded that he was the right guy to lead the Columbus Crew, that he would be a great fit for the city of Columbus, that he would be somebody that would push the team to be successful on the field, and ultimately be a great partner for the other investors in Major League Soccer. Over the last four to six weeks we continued those discussions and today we are officially announcing that we have sold the team to Anthony Precourt – who is now my pleasure to introduce.

Anthony Precourt [of Precourt Sports Ventures, LLC]: Investor-Operator, Chairman, Columbus Crew

Introduction:

Good afternoon Columbus and Crew fans. This is a really special moment for me and my family - I’m greatly honored to be here. As a passionate sports fan, a member of a multi-generational soccer household and an energy investor, I’ve long admired the contributions that the Hunt Family has made to both business and sports – professional sports – including their commitment to Major League Soccer and the Crew. It was a number of years ago, actually, at the NFL Hall of Fame, just down the road in Canton, Ohio, that I had the honor of sitting next to Lamar Hunt Sr. at a dinner and his humility, quiet passion, and inner drive were really unforgettable. Lamar has made many sports-related dreams a reality over his lifetime. So I sit here today feeling very inspired that Precourt Sports Ventures is the newest investor-operator in Major League Soccer and the second owner in the history of the Columbus Crew. With this honor we will respectfully and diligently try to uphold Lamar’s vision for Major League Soccer and the Crew. Further, we will honor his fan-first mentality, which started with the Crew playing in the first soccer-specific Stadium in the League. To the Hunt Family, to Clark and Lamar, thank you for having the trust in us to become the new stewards of the Crew – it’s humbling and inspiring that you’ve allowed us this opportunity because we know that you didn’t have to sell to us. When we first heard you might be willing to bring in a minority partner with the Crew, we were interested in finding out more. That process unfolded and what we learned about Major League Soccer, the Crew and Columbus it became clear to us that our preference was to take a controlling stake in the team. So again, Lamar and Clark, thanks again for having the faith in us to take control and management of the team. Being here today in Columbus as the new Crew Chairman is a huge honor for me, it’s a fulfillment of a lifelong dream. This club, and any sports franchise for that matter, should be a sacred community asset – that is how we’re going to treat the Crew. Our goal will be to take the Crew to be one of the standard bearers in the League; a League I believe is going places fast. I see so much opportunity here in Columbus – it’s a dynamic growing city, it’s got incredible soccer heritage, and a passionate supporter’s fan base. We have all the resources we need to make the Crew increasingly relevant locally and nationally, stronger financially and more competitive on the field. I’m going to take this job extremely seriously. It has really consumed me, and trust me, I’ve had many sleepless nights over the past few months, thinking about and dreaming about our future together. All you need to know is that I’m very committed to Columbus and I’m here with you. We see a clear path for success here in Columbus and I hope you all jump on board. To the supporters, the players, the management team, the staff, corporate partners, and the greater Columbus community – I can’t wait to get to know you all better and get to work with you. Our commitment to the Crew as a community asset will be strong, as will our desire to win trophies for our supporters. We have a competitive fire and our intent is to run this club with a single mission: to create the resources to win, over the short run and the long run. We are excited about rolling up our sleeves here in Columbus, being a part of this dynamic community, getting to know as many of you as possible and working hard to build the club’s reputation. Thank you very much.

City of Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman

Introduction:

First, let me just say thank you to the Hunt Family. Your father [Lamar Hunt Sr.] and your family brought professional soccer to Columbus and it’s meant a lot to our city in many ways. Clark and Lamar Hunt Jr., thank you very much for your commitment to the city and all the excitement and economic development and jobs and opportunities, investments that you brought to our city – and excitement and passion and pride to our city. I have a lot of pride in the Crew; it’s a great team, great ownership, and great vision of the Hunt Family that brought them here – and we’re grateful for them. You [Hunt Family] hold a special place in Columbus history and you played a significant role in the city’s success along the way – so again, thank you. Now, let me turn to Anthony Precourt. Anthony, you are now officially a part of the city of Columbus, so welcome. We’re glad to have you here. You will come to love this great city as much as I do and many others do love this city. We’re delighted to have you here and we look forward to working with you to make the Crew an even better team, with even greater successes as you explore new horizons and lift us up to even higher heights. The Columbus Crew is a vital part of the fabric and the future of the city. You know the Crew has many firsts – Crew Stadium, the first of its kind, a soccer specific facility in the United States. The Crew is Columbus’ Major League team. The Crew’s Brain McBride was the first ever draft pick in MLS history – and the Crew brought Columbus’ first-ever Major League Championship, winning the first MLS Cup Championship in 2008 - a very proud moment for the city and for the Crew. With all the things the Crew has done for our city – the 400 million dollars in direct spending, the hundreds of area jobs, the 3.5 million people who have attended soccer matches and other events here, the millions in tax revenue – the pride of our city. We’re glad that you [Precourt] are here. We’re going to spend more time with Anthony. I spent time with him yesterday, last night, we spent some time together. I’ve come to understand his passion for soccer and his genuine interest and commitment to Columbus. You all know me pretty well; you know my first question was – is the Crew staying in Columbus? And he [Precourt] said, “absolutely, the Crew is in Columbus to stay”. So we’re proud of that and we’re proud of Anthony and we’re looking forward to working with him to bringing the Crew to the next level. Congratulations, glad you’re here; look forward to working with you.

Hunt Sports Group’s Clark Hunt

Closing remarks:

Before we open it up to questions, I want to publically thank the staff, the players, the coaches, the community leaders, and most importantly, our tremendous fans who have embraced our family and the Crew and helped make them successful. Our time here in Columbus was great and I know that Anthony is going to take the team on to new heights. Thank you very much.

Anthony Precourt [of Precourt Sports Ventures, LLC]: Investor-Operator, Chairman, Columbus Crew

On his motivation to purchase the Crew:

You know I’ve always enjoyed sports – played sports since I was a young boy. I’ve always admired soccer in particular. About a year ago, two years ago actually, our family sold a business and we’ve always been investors in the energy space. I thought it would be interesting to explore sports-related entertainment opportunities. We started down a road about 12 months ago of looking around, networking and talking with people – then got in touch with the Hunt Family about four months ago and started that discussion then. I would say, for the last 10 months or 11 months, we’ve been keenly focused on Major League Soccer opportunities because we’re bullish about the direction of the League.

On his history:

I grew up in Denver, Colorado; I’ve got one sister, my parents all live in Denver and Vail, Colorado. I’ve always gone where the opportunity lies – I went to high school in Connecticut, I went to college in Los Angeles, I worked in Texas, I went to business school up in New Hampshire at Dartmouth. I now live in the Bay Area. I’m here in Columbus today because we saw a fantastic opportunity to get involved with Major League Soccer, with a club that’s got tremendous history – 18 years of history, one of the Charter Members of the League – they’ve had great success on the field and a culture that we were really attracted to. Consistency, a family-like atmosphere – the Hunt’s have been great stewards and that’s the kind of opportunity we were looking for. I do live in Northern California now and intend to be here [Columbus] on a regular basis. We will, by no means, be absentee owners. I’m not sure we’ll be moving here full-time, but I’ll be here very, very regularly and have a second home here over time. Family’s background: my father’s entire career was in the energy sector, an investor and an operator of a number of different businesses – primarily natural gas pipelines and processing facilities. My personal background has been in investment management and finance since I graduated college in 1993. So this will be our first foray into sports.

On his list of priorities as the Crew’s new owner:

We have a long list of goals. We want to make this team a standard-bearer in Major League Soccer, one of the gems. It’s a very healthy franchise, but we’ve got a lot of plans to make it even stronger. Obviously attendance and goal 10K, in terms of our season tickets, is still a priority. We’re making progress, close to 7,000, but we’ve got to keep pushing, that’s very important for us. You know, we need the resources to win on the field, so corporate sponsors; we need support of the corporate sponsors. One of the first things I’m going to do is get out there and re-introduce myself. Naming rights is been something we’ve been working very hard on and is very important to us. I think we’ll look at the brand and see if we can make it a little more exciting. Those are our first goals and objectives. I’ll tell you that we’re going to be thoughtful and thorough about the decisions we make, we’re not going to make knee-jerk reactions. Our intent is to come in and have it be status quo here for a while and just assess the situation - learn, ask a lot of questions, and by season end, we’ll start to build our business plan for the following year and we’ll probably be making some changes.