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Mas brothers join Beckham bid in shake-up that sees top partner exit Miami MLS venture

Michelle Kaufman and Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald on

Published in Soccer

The investors behind David Beckham's bid for a Miami soccer stadium have undergone a significant shake-up, with majority partner Todd Boehly out and Miami moguls Jorge and Jose Mas joining the venture, according to several sources close to the talks.

News of the shake-up comes days before the Beckham group hopes to finally win approval from Major League Soccer owners to grant the retired soccer star an expansion franchise in Miami for the deeply discounted price of $25 million. The discount, attached to Beckham's MLS contract as its marquee player when he joined the Los Angeles team a decade ago, has been a sticking point with some owners as Beckham's bid for a Miami soccer team is on the verge of entering its fifth year.

In losing Boehly, Beckham parted with the latest in a series of would-be top investors: the co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers was slated to be the majority owner and controlling partner in the MLS league. But in the Mas brothers, Beckham gains as partners two of the most prominent business executives in Miami and the family behind a leading corporate name in the region, MasTec.

The arrival of the Mas brothers follows Jorge Mas losing out to Derek Jeter and partners in a bid to purchase the Miami Marlins earlier this year. It also follows public signs of strain in the Beckham camp, with one-time lead negotiator Tim Leiweke in November publicly airing his "fears" that a Miami deal wouldn't get done.

Boehly stepped in to much acclaim in April as the deep-pocketed investor that Beckham and partners said they needed to finalize their Miami stadium venture. But it was never clear if Boehly had locked in his backing, and MLS owners have yet to fully endorse Beckham's Miami plans.

An MLS spokesperson said Tuesday that owners are set to meet Thursday, and that an "update" on the Miami situation is on the agenda.

Before Boehly emerged, Beckham and partners, including Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure and entertainment impresario Simon Fuller, also courted Milwaukee Bucs owner Wesley Edens and the nation of Qatar to bankroll a 25,000-seat stadium project expected to cost more than $150 million. The group also lost out on bids for stadium sites at PortMiami, downtown Miami, and near Marlins Park in Little Havana before settling on Miami's Overtown neighborhood.

It's not clear now who the majority partner would be. Amid the partnership shake-up, a source close to the talks said Claure had recruited Masayoshi Son, Sprint's chairman and one of the wealthiest men in Japan, to join Beckham as a partner.

 

Representatives for Beckham, Boehly and Leiweke were unavailable for comment Tuesday. The Mas brothers also could not be reached for comment.

Beckham's bid for a Miami stadium has been marked by false hopes and passed deadlines as he and his partners struggled to secure a stadium site, win investor backing, and nail down MLS approval of a Miami franchise without having to pay a league expansion fee that currently costs other new teams more than $150 million. When Beckham joined the L.A. Galaxy roster in 2007, his contract included a provision allowing him to pay $25 million for an expansion franchise. But the details of that agreement are not known, including how much latitude MLS owners have to deny Beckham that price under the ownership structure he has presented the league.

The Beckham group has already secured a 9-acre stadium site in Overtown. About 3 acres of the land is owned by Miami-Dade County, which has agreed to sell the property to the Beckham group for $9 million. The deal includes provisions allowing the Beckham group to delay closing on the property until next year, and it's also the subject of a court fight over Miami-Dade negotiating the sale without offering the property up to other bidders. A judge recently sided with the county's use of state economic-development laws to justify the planned sale, but the plaintiff, nearby land owner Bruce Matheson, is appealing the ruling.

(c)2017 Miami Herald

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