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Real Salt Lake acquired by David Blitzer and Ryan Smith in ‘US$400m’ deal

Arctos also on board as limited partner in MLS club.

6 January 2022 Rory Jones

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  • Dell Loy Hansen was forced to sell Real Salt Lake following racism allegations
  • Deal includes Rio Tinto Stadium, the USL’s Real Monarchs and a NWSL expansion franchise option

David Blitzer and Ryan Smith have been confirmed as the new owners of Real Salt Lake after gaining approval from the Major League Soccer (MLS) board.

The takeover, reportedly worth around US$400 million according to Sportico, was unanimously approved by MLS’ board of governors.

The club’s former owner Dell Loy Hansen was forced to sell the team following accusations that he had repeatedly used racist language, with MLS taking over the sales process in January last year.

The deal will see Blitzer become the club’s governor, with Smith Entertainment Group (SEG) holding the Qualtrics co-founder’s share and serving as alternate governor.

Real Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium, their Zions Bank Training Centre and the club’s academy located in Herriman, Utah are all included in the deal, in addition to the club’s second-tier United Soccer League (USL) team the Real Monarchs.

The deal also includes Utah Soccer LLC’s option to take up an expansion franchise in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The Utah Royals were disbanded in 2020 when the team’s league licence and players were acquired by the owners of what has become the Kansas City Current. That move saw Hansen’s holding company retain the right to relaunch an NWSL franchise in Utah and Blitzer has told the Salt Lake Tribune that there are plans to do so.

Blitzer said: “I think the best way to say is that from our perspective, [relaunching the NWSL team is] a function of when, not if. We’re at day one, but this has been an important item that Ryan and I have talked about a lot, and we’re very excited to bring an NWSL team back to this marketplace.”

With MLS having recently changed its ownership rules to permit institutional investment, Arctos Sports Partners has also joined Real Salt Lake as a limited partner.

The private equity firm already has more than 20 investments across the US major leagues, most recently securing separate minority stakes in the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild.

The deal sees Real Salt Lake become the latest addition to Blitzer’s ownership portfolio. Via Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment (HBSE), which the 52-year-old co-founded with Josh Harris, Blitzer co-owns the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.

Blitzer also has a share in Premier League club Crystal Palace, while he also has personal investments in the Bundesliga’s FC Augsburg and Belgian club Waasland Beveren.

Smith’s SEG also owns Salt Lake City’s NBA franchise, the Utah Jazz, which was the billionaire’s first major sports investment.

“Real Salt Lake is a world-class club with an amazing fanbase, strong infrastructure and a longstanding commitment to the Utah community,” Blitzer said.

“We will work to build upon the legacy and tradition of Real Salt Lake by investing not only in the team and its facilities, but also in the communities our team serves. We have the opportunity to use Real Salt Lake’s unique platform to drive positive change on the pitch, in the local community and across Utah. We are excited and honoured to be a part of what the future holds.”

Smith added: “There is an incredible soccer community here in Utah from youth and outreach programs to the passionate RSL supporters and fans. We look forward to continuing to work with the region and state to do big things with professional sports.”

Real Salt Lake’s 2022 MLS campaign gets underway on 27th February, when the team travels to Houston Dynamo in its season opener.


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