Major shake-up in David Beckham’s MLS franchise bid

Mas brothers join consortium as Todd Boehly exits stalled project.

Major shake-up in David Beckham’s MLS franchise bid

Cuban-American billionaires Jorge and Jose Mas have replaced Todd Boehly as major investors in David Beckham’s bid to bring Major League Soccer (MLS) to Miami, according to US media reports.

News of the restructuring of Beckham’s prospective ownership group - known as Miami Beckham United - comes just days before a crucial meeting of the MLS board of governors, who are poised to discuss whether to finally give the stalled project the green light.

The Mas brothers, who lost out to baseball great Derek Jeter and partners in a bid to purchase Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Miami Marlins earlier this year, have joined Beckham’s group with the effort about to enter its fifth year. Billionaire Sprint chairman Masayoshi Son is also said to be providing backing to the group, although the extent of his involvement is unknown.

Beckham negotiated the right to acquire an MLS expansion franchise for a discounted fee of US$25 million when he joined LA Galaxy in 2007. However, the departure of Boehly – a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team who only joined Beckham’s consortium in April – has fuelled rumours that the project might not get to the finish line anytime soon.

Tim Leiweke, Beckham’s one-time lead negotiator, hinted recently that the protracted project, which was first proposed back in early 2014, may never come to fruition.

The circumstances surrounding Boehly’s departure are unclear but, according to sources cited by ESPN FC, MLS owners were unhappy with his plan to hold a majority stake in Beckham’s venture.

The Beckham group - which also includes Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure and entertainment mogul Simon Fuller, Beckham’s long-time business partner – had previously lost out on bids for stadium sites at PortMiami, downtown Miami, and another near Marlins Park in Little Havana.

In June, however, the group secured a crucial land deal for a 25,000-seater stadium project, which is projected to cost more than US$150 million, in the city’s Overtown district.

MLS commissioner Don Garber revealed in the summer that a decision regarding Beckham’s proposed franchise would be made imminently, but the lack of a solid ownership group and a firm stadium deal, plus an ongoing legal dispute with local landowner Bruce Matheson, has scuppered any hopes of giving the project the go-ahead.

MLS is currently running an expansion process that will see another two teams added to the league before the end of the year. Four ownership groups from Sacramento, Nashville, Detroit and Cincinnati made their final pitches to league executives last week.