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Report: D.C. United valued at $50 million

ThohirLevien (Getty Images)

D.C. United's front-office brass spoke Tuesday about how the club had no financial restrictions following the introduction of new owners Jason Levien and Erick Thohir. The club's latest valuation would seem to corroborate that.

According to a report from Forbes, D.C.'s two new owners bought 60 percent of the club to boost its value to $50 million, with the ownership deal being the most expensive in league history. Chang, who will still own 40 percent of the team according to the report, had been the lone owner since 2009, when Victor MacFarlane sold his portion of the team.

"We really don't have any restrictions on what we can do," club president and CEO Kevin Payne said Tuesday. "That doesn't mean we're going to rush out and do silly things and throw money around. But at least as we're planning, we know that within reason we can do whatever we need to do to build the brand, so that's the way we're going to approach the business."

What do you think of this development?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Typically, the way the article reads, this means the actual transaction was $30M went to Will Chang, in exchange for 60% of the team. Thus, the BOOK value of $50M.

    For a team without a SSS, this seems like a fair valuation.

  2. “DCU lost one of their investors, so their value probably went down.”?

    60% of DCU was just purchased at a valuation of $50M, so that’s what they are worth. If they were actually worth only $35M in ’08, they are obviously worth more now.

  3. I agree. Besides the new stadiums there’s been a big increase in stadium and shirt sponsorships. Also a better tv deal.

  4. i think the Forbes article is a little misleading. in 2008, Forbes valued LAG at $100M with revenue at $36M. by far the most valuable, here is the rest of the 2008 list:

    2. Toronto – $47M worth, $17M revenue
    3. Chicago – $41M, $16M revenue
    4. Dallas – $39M, $15M in revenue
    5. NY – $36M, $10M revenue
    6. DC – $35M, $13M revenue
    7. Houston – $33M, $10M revenue
    8. Colorado – $31M, $11M revenue
    9. Salt Lake – $30M, $7M revenue
    10. New England – $27M, $10M revenue
    11. Chivas – $24M, $10M revenue
    12. Columbus – $23M, $6M revenue
    13. KC – $22M, $5M revenue

    since then, A LOT has changed. KC, RSL, Houston, and NY have all opened their own stadiums. also, DCU lost one of their investors, so their value probably went down. also, by 2008, Red Bull had invested $150M into the team, naming rights, and construction costs. sadly, Forbes hasn’t done anything like this since 2008, so it’s all speculation. but i doubt $50M value for DCU is an “MLS record” in the sense Forbes makes it seem.

    you figure DCU was probably worth around $30M before they bought in, which means they put in, effectively, $20M (yes, I under stand they own 60% of the $50M, which is $30M). in other words, it’s not the same as a new club being bought for $50M straight up. DCU already held a good portion of the $50M value BEFORE the investment.

    in any event, as a DCU fan, i’m very excited. with a stadium and a big name DP, DCU could easily be worth as much as NY and LA (eventually).

  5. You left out Vancouver and Toronto. But I’d argue since Portland doesn’t own the stadium they’re in their value may not be at $50 million just yet.

  6. And the reason I bring this up is a team that owns their place can probably add the asset value of the stadium to their price (at least to some extent) whereas a team that is renting has credits and debits for the revenue the stadium brings minus the rent it costs, you value it as the intangible value of a going business without physical assets. All they are is an entertainment company with staff contracts, office furniture, etc.

    Also, FWIW, if my parent like AEG or Red Bull owns the stadium instead of me proper, whose asset is it? Because if I’m looking to buy on value it would matter whether the stadium is or is not part of the pakage.

  7. I think you’re right on this one actually. But my basic point remains if you look at the stadiums, many, including SSSs, are not team-owned. BC Place is owned by BC province, BMO by Toronto (city), the Colorado park is Commerce City’s, FCD’s place is really Frisco’s, Jeld-Wen is Portland’s (city), PPL is Delaware County’s, Toyota Park is Bridgeview’s.

    Now, on the other side of the ledger, you’d have Crew Stadium, Home Depot, Livestrong (KC), Red Bull Arena, Rio Tinto, and Saputo. And then there’d be a third category for like Seattle and New England where you’re part of a conglomerate that lets you play in the football stadium, although technically Gilette is private and Seahawks public.

    I just think the whole SSS discussion gets oversimplified, it matters how much of the stadium is private, what the terms are if it’s still public, etc. People knock NE but if it’s playing for free and part of a big Kraft entity, it’s somewhere between free money and the old model of sports teams as almost like a public service like a newspaper.

  8. haha this is a joke right? torres would still be the second-best (if not the best) player on the US national team. he won the golden boot at the euro. i don’t care if they were cheap goals.

  9. ya DC United is also valued the same as 50 million lottery tickets or 5 million 30packs of Miller High Life.. You are comparing apples to oranges!

    If the entire value of all DU United players was say $10 million then we could make a comment on how a single player is worth more than all of their contracts but this is a valuation of a number of things including tangible and intangible items that add and decrease the amount.

  10. very true. while this sounds like a good amount its really not! It sounds like these guys are buying low and confident that they can ride DC United to a bigger things down the line. Good time to buy into the club!

  11. Despite the insulting headline at Forbes (“Billionaire’s Son…”) Thohir is quite accomplished. He clearly had a head start with family money but has built a sports and media empire (different businesses from his fathers) at a young age.

    Time will tell, of course, but as DCU supporter I’m thrilled to have him.

  12. As I understand it, the expansion fees for Vancouver and Portland were $35 million, and $40 million was initially rejected and then later accepted by Montreal.

    One factor that would bear noting is that stadia are usually one of the few concrete assets of a team, the rest being intangible player contracts, merchandising rights, TV deals, etc. I’d bet most MLS stadia are not owned by their tenants. Houston still technically rents from the County, LA is a tenant of a Cal State school that owns Home Depot, and Seattle plays in their owner’s football stadium (as does NE).

    I say this because only so many MLS teams are profitable and if they don’t own their stadia the value of the franchise will basically be rights + something for a going business. So those with dollar signs in their heads might want to ease up.

    That being said, over time I think a salary cap league with decent attendance is a reliable investment, and probably more so than, say, certain Mexican or La Liga or Scottish or English teams, which while offering nominally higher salaries may not actually always be paying the players (or opposing teams), and may not be reliable investments. So while we may not have sky high asset values it might not be the worst thing in the world that we’re not leveraged to the hilt to field a global all star team….

  13. You don’t know what you’re talking about. If you would have done your research you would have known that Levien will be taking care of the day-to-day issues so it doesn’t really matter how much “business sense” you dont beleive Thohir possesses. Not to mention he owns two other sports teams and numerous other businesses in Asia. So I think he’s quite qualified.

  14. Portland came in, I believe at $40 million. I know Montreal did. When Seattle came in, the franchise fee was less — I think $30 or #35 million.

    What sets the market? To some extent, team values would fluctuate based on location, but that’s more pronounced in established leagues that aren’t expanding. If you can buy a new team for $40 million, what would be the motivation to buy an existing team for more?

    What the DCU purchase does is reset the bar. Buyers for expansion teams will be looking at this figure.

  15. Interesting that DC United is worth what Andy Carroll cost less than one year ago. If I was in the market for something costing $50 Million and I had to choose between these I think I would buy a DC United before an Andy Carrol. Just say’n

  16. The $50M is comparable to the expansion fee paid by the new clubs over the past couple of years. DC has little value now – no SSS – cannot control its revenue streams from RFK consessions,parking, etc. DC is bleeding money right now, hence the low valuation. Once the SSS is in place, the value will be much higher. Very shrewd investment by these two guys.

  17. This is why i’m against regulation, MLS makes money as opposed to euro clubs that are in the red or continue to sell shares (to americans) to stay afloat. What good is it being the top 4 teams in the league when you don’t make much profit?

  18. Yes, it would be interesting to see how this number ($50 mil) compares to other MLS clubs, and also a range of European clubs. Anyone got advice on how to get that info?

  19. What concerns me even more about this deal is that Thohir is wealthy courtesy of dad, and is not a self-made man. Given his wild, dreamy business aspirations voiced in the presentation, it’s pretty clear this guy has little clue how to run this club and do business in DC. I’m guessing he will not be around anymore in a few years time. Even with plans, and documents, and some political-backing, getting this stadium project done in DC has proven very challenging over years. Victor MacFarlane looked to have done all the right things also with the previous proposal and previous site… I think Thohir likely has less business sense than MacFarlane.

    Good luck to DC, I would hope to see this stadium built in the not-too-distant future. Really the best thing that could happen for the club.

  20. The fact that MLS ‘admits’ that 1/3 of the teams make money, probably puts them as the most successful ‘stated’ league in the US, no ? 😉

    The league is very strong and we are very lucky.

  21. I think other teams in the league are worth more than $50 million, that is not a very big number for a business. I would venture that LA, Seattle, NY, perhaps Portland and others are worth more than $50 million.

  22. This was an excellent move by Will Chang. Foreign billionaires investing in soccer has been a financial windfall in Europe. I’ve been thinking for awhile that MLS should pursue some of that money as well. This could be a big step towards making MLS as financially solvent as other American sports leagues and other soccer leagues around the world. Jason Levien and Erick Thohir are the perfect investors.


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