MIAMI — For David Beckham, Monday marked the end of an arduous four-year search for an MLS team. For business partner Marcelo Claure, the wait had been much longer.
MLS officially green-lighted Beckham’s MLS expansion franchise in Miami on Monday afternoon, giving the global icon and his group of investors their club at long last. The announcement at the Adrienne Arsht Center was met with plenty of joy, especially from Beckham as he finally forayed into the world of team ownership.
Beckham, as he does, stole the show and the subsequent headlines as the celebrity owner, but it was Claure who was the investor on stage who had waited the longest to have a team in Miami. He previously tried to join forces with FC Barcelona — yes, that FC Barcelona — in 2008 to try to bring an MLS team to the city.
Nothing came of it, just as nothing almost came of this venture with Beckham. The Bolivian billionaire and Sprint CEO revealed arguably the biggest nugget of the day with his speech during Monday’s ceremony when he told the rowdy public on hand that the Miami MLS dream was dead in the water 60 days prior to the announcement. That he and Beckham had decided to call it quits after running into yet another hurdle.
Ultimately, however, they decided to explore one final avenue. It proved to be fruitful.
“We’re happy that we finally got past Phase 1,” Claure told SBI on Monday. “It was a long, long journey. It was an adventure and you celebrate your victories and this is a good day. Then beginning tomorrow we have a whole new set of goals, and then we’re going to fight hard to get to Phase 3 and Phase 4.”
How Claure and Beckham got over the finish line was with the help of Miami businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas. Claure had previously been in contact with them, and believed that they could potentially be the final pieces to the puzzle of Beckham’s ownership group.
He met with them, and they proved to be exactly that as weeks later Miami got its team at long last.
“This doesn’t happen without Marcelo Claure,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told SBI. “He literally was the glue that bound all of this together, keeping David interested, finding the Mas family, bringing in (fellow owner and billionaire Masayoshi) Son. I’ve been dealing with him for over a decade, and I love him. He’s passionate, he’s smart, he’s successful, he’s an entrepreneur.”
Claure is more than just that. He is also what Garber called a “soccer guy” because Claure knows the business aspects of the sport after previously serving as the majority owner of Club Bolivar in his native land.
The 6-foot-6 Claure also has ties to Miami. It is there where he founded the wireless distribution company, Brightstar Corporation, that made him his fortune. He has felt indebted to the city because of that, which explains why he has been so persistent in trying to bring an MLS team to Miami for so long.
It is also why he took advantage of the chance to partner up with Beckham back in 2013 after meeting, in part, because of their connections to Jennifer Lopez. Yes, that Jennifer Lopez.
“I met Marcelo quite a few years ago now and he’s a larger-than-life character,” said Beckham. “He’s passionate, he understands the sport obviously from his team in Bolivia, so he understands how to run a team, but he also understands Miami. When I went to him and we started talking about having a team in Miami, he explained to me exactly what he felt about having a team here.
“But he also comes from a lot of power, a lot of experience. Obviously his partnership with Masoyoshi Son is huge for us, so having his experience, his expertise, his passion, that’s what we need from our owners.”
Claure may have celebrated with Beckham on Monday, both at the public ceremony and later on that day inside a Miami bar with soccer fans, but hard work still lies ahead for the both of them. The expansion club needs to make plenty of big decisions in the coming months, including signing people to the front office and team roster, and Claure will likely be involved in all that.
It is true that MLS Miami could not have happened without Beckham or the Mas brothers, but it also could not have happened without Marcelo Claure.
Yes, that Marcelo Claure.
“Marcelo has been part of this from Day 1 with me,” said Beckham. “The moment that I was awarded the team, Marcelo and I met and we talked about Miami. That’s how it was started.”