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MacFarlane Out as United Investor

Victor MacFarlane, the San Francisco real estate executive who has spearheaded D.C. United's pursuit of a new stadium, has sold his stake in the MLS club to business partner Will Chang, team officials announced today.

"It has been an exciting and challenging last few years for D.C. United," MacFarlane said in a written statement.

Chang, also based in San Francisco, will now have an estimated 98 percent controlling interest in United. The remainder of the investment is held by former Duke basketball players Brian Davis and Christian Laettner, who are also in the real estate business.

Keep reading!

Since teaming with Chang to purchase the primary operating rights to United in January 2007 for a reported $33 million, MacFarlane has focused primarily on forming a partnership with a local jurisdiction to construct a medium-sized venue as part of a mixed-use development to replace 48-year-old RFK Stadium. The club says RFK's size, outdated features and lack of amenities have made it impossible to generate game-day revenue.

Potential deals at Poplar Point in the District and in Prince George's County, Maryland, collapsed in the past nine months, prompting MLS Commissioner Don Garber to say that United's future in the Washington area might be in jeopardy.

MacFarlane is the founder and managing principal of MacFarlane Partners, one of the leading real estate investment firms in the United States with more than $10 billion in assets under management. Chang is the chairman of the global investment firm Westlake International Group and one of the owners of the Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants. While MacFarlane has made only periodical appearances at United games and events, Chang has been seen regularly at home and away matches.

"We have many challenges ahead for both the team and a stadium site, but I am confident we will emerge successful on both fronts," Chang said.

Much more later.....

By Steve Goff  |  May 21, 2009; 11:06 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Next: Chang Speaks With Insider

Comments

WOAH.

Posted by: the_slammer | May 21, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Wow. I have no idea if this is a good thing or not. I look forward to reading the thoughts of those who know this situation far better than I do.

Though I can confirm this rumor about a new rock documentary, to be called "This is WAXTAP."

Posted by: joedoc1 | May 21, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

You can't throw in the towel much more forcefully than that. This is not good news for DC United and its fans.

Posted by: JohnDorsey | May 21, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

HOLY S!

Posted by: Kev29 | May 21, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

OK, now that the shock has worn off...this might be a good thing? The investor who was primarily interested in real estate, not the team, sells to the guy who seems to be more invested in the team/fans (and also owns another pro sports team). Maybe, as far as stadiums go, this will help since there may be less development strings attached on say, a Poplar Point site?

Of course, you could also see this as MacFarlane, who wanted an in on the DC real estate market, realizing that just isn't going to happen, deciding he wasn't interested in real estate wherever the team is going to move, and punting on the operation to avoid further losses...

Posted by: the_slammer | May 21, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

You can't throw in the towel much more forcefully than that. This is not good news for DC United and its fans.

Posted by: JohnDorsey | May 21, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

------------------------------------

I'm an eternal optimist so I don't entirely agree. Previous plans for the stadium had to be tied to ancillary development to meet Victor's business goals. Will, hopefully, is open to plans and locations which can stand on their own. He also may sell some of the shares to people who will bring other assets to the table.

Posted by: beach3 | May 21, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I think it's a good thing. Chang is more commited to the team. He'll be more liekly to fight Garber if he tries to move the team.

Posted by: bighungry | May 21, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

good. get out.

Even if Will Chang's strolls through Barra tailgates were lame PR stunts, it still seems like he's been more interested in the sports side of things than simply using the club as an investment tool.

Forget the blocks of adjoining development, just build the best damn stadium this league has seen. And build it somewhere inside the beltway.

The team and the fans will take care of the rest.

Posted by: me_ahogo | May 21, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

My initial reaction is that this is very much the necessary thing - but only if Chang has the fans best interests in mind. We don't know his motives yet, but I'm enthusiastic. This also instantly improves relations with the club and city (with the bitter MacFarlane out).

MacFarlane showed up for a sweetheart real estate deal - we need a stadium.

Posted by: Kev29 | May 21, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Is this the Chang we've been looking for?

Posted by: joedoc1 | May 21, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I would be *happy* to be talked out of my initial sour take on this, even if it requires a bit of wishful thinking! Keep talking -

Posted by: JohnDorsey | May 21, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

"Even if Will Chang's strolls through Barra tailgates were lame PR stunts"

you might think of it as a stunt at home matches but when there's 5 of us at some far away game and he comes over to our section for every away he's at (and trust me from experience it seems to me he makes time to go to a lot) it's taking it to new level of stuntiness ;)

I'd always just thought of it as commitment and enjoyment of club instead.

Posted by: SrdanBarra | May 21, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Even if Will Chang's strolls through Barra tailgates were lame PR stunts, it still seems like he's been more interested in the sports side of things than simply using the club as an investment tool.

Posted by: me_ahogo | May 21, 2009 11:20 AM

You know - I thought Chang's activities were PR stunts at the time - trying to stroke the fans as a representative of his partnership with MacFarlane. Now it appears to be the opposite - perhaps he was showing his commitment to the club separate from MacFarlane? Seems that way today - with his buyout.

I'll be interested to hear Garber's response.

Posted by: Kev29 | May 21, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I can't tell if this is good or bad, but I'm leaning toward good for the reasons others have sited: McFarlane didn't just want a stadium, he wanted a whole development, which is more difficult to achieve than just a stadium by itself.

When you get down to it, neither McFralane nor Chang are local guys anyway, so this doesn't really change the ownership's presumed loyalty to DC. And Chang lives in the Bay Area, where they (thankfully) already have a team, so we don't have to worry about the owner moving the team to his home city just because he wants to (as happened with the Sonics).

Posted by: jsm91 | May 21, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Here's another issue - does the loss of MacFarlane's capital hurt the possibility of the ownership putting up more money for a stadium? How much money does Chang have?

Posted by: the_slammer | May 21, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Ha! Indeed, joedoc, I think this is Chang we can believe in . . . .

Posted by: OWNTF | May 21, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Srdan, Kev29:

I don't think of it as a PR stunt, its just the cynical side of me that says it could be a PR stunt...

I think his enthusiasm is genuine, just as Gomito's was when he was drumming up in NYC. I didn't know that Chang showed up for road games like that.

Posted by: me_ahogo | May 21, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

This is Chang you can believe in....

Posted by: fischy | May 21, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

YES WE ChANg!

Posted by: Kev29 | May 21, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

please god, someone in the Barra make a CHANG WE CAN BELIEVE IN banner before saturday... I'll buy the paint.

Posted by: me_ahogo | May 21, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

The MINUTE Fenty put the kibosh on Poplar Point was the start of the count-down to today. The only thing that surprises me is that it took this long.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 21, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I wonder how much the buyout figure was, and how it compares to MacF's initial expenditure. Business loss as a tax writeoff time, I guess....

Cautiously optimistic about this.

Posted by: 22206no1 | May 21, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I did think it was awfully strange that Mac wasn't at the march on the 9th. I think I even mentioned it in a post. This very well may be the Change that we are looking for. My first thought is to reach out and let Chang know that we are behind him, and are willing to do our part in helping him get this team what it deserves. I don't mean a hand out.

Time to go for a ride with the kiddo, the weather is awesome. Get outside everyone!

Posted by: DadRyan | May 21, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

How much money does Chang have?
=====================

I'm guessing he has about $20 million less than he had yesterday . . . .

Posted by: OWNTF | May 21, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Chang, also based in San Francisco, will now have an estimated 98 percent controlling interest in United.
__________________________________________

Goff: Isn't that really 98 percent of 49 percent? Doesn't the league hold a controlling interest in each club under the so-called modified single entity model? Of course, that would mean that Chang owns 7 percent of 51 percent of every club in the league.

Posted by: universityandpark | May 21, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Seriously -- while I thought it was important that DCU had an African-American face, in seeking the city's help with a stadium, that was not enough in the end.

If Will's priorities are more focused on the team than on using the team as a wedge to get larger development rights, I would have to think this is a good thing. In Will Chang, United has maybe the most genuine and committed owner/fan. This might not be the last step in an ownership shift -- or, it just might be -- but, I think it may prove to be a step forward in the stadium quest.

Posted by: fischy | May 21, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Let's all pray that DC United Holdings LLC, Westlake International Group, and Clark Construction LLC are on the phone about JV's at Poplar Point and Adrian Fenty is invovled.

I honestly think Fenty HATED MacF enough to do anything to screw him.

Maybe Chang will have a better chance at striking gold in DC.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | May 21, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, a good thing for DC United franchise, but a bad thing for stadium development. If the two go hand-in-hand (i.e. new stadium = viability for DC United) then bad thing . . .

This guy had only his own interest in purchasing/developing land, which the team was ancillary to that goal. He prob. never viewed as doing the best thing for United in the long run, but the best thing for his balance sheet . . .

Posted by: waltrkm | May 21, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Does Will have Leonsis' number?

Posted by: fischy | May 21, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"This guy had only his own interest in purchasing/developing land, which the team was ancillary to that goal. He prob. never viewed as doing the best thing for United in the long run, but the best thing for his balance sheet . . ."
-----------

Bingo, @waltkrm, you nailed it. Couldn't agree more.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 21, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

What you many be seeing is the difference in mind-set between a developer - MacFarlane and an investor - Chang. Developers believe in first and most importantly using other people's money and that if they are going to build in your city or jurisdiction - what are you going to give them or do for them. Investors believe in putting out their own money to make money. Thus MacFarlane wanted to build a new stadium using the absolute least amount of his own money as possible. Chang, not so much. Do you think for one second that Fenty would have turned thumbs down on a new United Stadium-hotel project if the club had said we'll pay the whole thing. Ditto PG County/State of Maryland. If Chang now steps forward and says "I'll pay at least 50% of the cost and guarentee any bonds, a new stadium will happen. If he continues to insist that someone build it for him, it will not.

Posted by: congguy | May 21, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

How much money does Chang have?
=====================

I'm guessing he has about $20 million less than he had yesterday . . . .


WOW, that's alot of spare chang!

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | May 21, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

In the words of Joey Lawrence, "Whoa!"

Posted by: sitruc | May 21, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

And here's the last graf from the DCU statement:

"'Will’s management expertise and passion for the team already reap benefits in performance as demonstrated by the unpredicted success of the team to date. I am certain those traits will bring the team to new heights. As I devote greater attention to MacFarlane Partners and my projects in multiple cities coast to coast, I will continue to track and root for D.C. United, and assist my friend Will, if and when needed,' added MacFarlane."
------------

"Unpredicted success"?!?

See ya, Vickie. Don't let the door hit you on your way out.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 21, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

During these 2+ years of Soccer Insider, I have learned to swallow my coffee before reading your comments.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | May 21, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Hold Mayor Fenty accountable for his actions vis-a-vis United and the Poplar Point Stadium/development plan. Now we face losing United, having no stadium at Poplar Point (McFarlain was going to build it for free), and no development along the Anacostia waterfront. Fenty's actions in this case have been an unmitigated disaster for the city, ward 8 residents, and every fan of soccer/futbol here in DC. Accountability takes place at the ballot box!

Posted by: morecowbell | May 21, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm leaning on the good, I've really on been following for a year or so, and it definately felt to me like Mac wanted land and money, Chang wanted a stadium. If I rememeber correctly, he was the one gushing and talking architecture and design on a chat on the United (not The United's) website when PG looked promising. So, I, for now, say this is good.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | May 21, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

can't blame the man. DC is a dead end street.

St. Louis United here we come.

Posted by: bobbyoshea | May 21, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Who would have thought the Bay Area would have two soccer teams before New York?

Thx,

Jay!

Posted by: jayrockers | May 21, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see we're balancing cautious optimism with blind pessimism. ;-)

Posted by: Kev29 | May 21, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I like an owner who loves his team. I hope Chang can get us a stadium.

Posted by: VirginiaFan | May 21, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

And, also, most surprising part of this post to me? Christian Laettner. Really?

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | May 21, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Wow!

I'll need to give serious thought about this, before I know intellectually how this impacts the team in the long term.

Posted by: J_S_F | May 21, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Macfarlane's got bigger problems than DC United's stadium deal to work on.

His net worth has dropped massively due to the real estate bomb. His company has a $1B project in CA in default. Macfarlane is cutting expenses all over the place, including putting his unfinished pimp pad up for sale in San Fran http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/28/BUP012JEK7.DTL

This is a sign of his/our economic realities more so than the sky falling for DCU. Will Chang is a better owner for the sporting aspects anyway.

Posted by: rrp2web | May 21, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Blogging is never having to give serious thought to anything before reacting emotionally.

Posted by: fischy | May 21, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

It's a disappointment that MacFarlane is pulling out. Sounds like Chang is still committed to get a stadium for United.

Posted by: ctsmithjr26 | May 21, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, blogging is also linking the same months-old story every few weeks...

Posted by: fischy | May 21, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

WOW!

This was a long time coming and I expected it months ago. I don't know what this means for DC United. By all accounts Chang is a much better manager. How many % did he buy from MacFarlane?

Secondly, in every stadium proposal I've heard it's been MacFarlane fronting the cash. Does Chang have the kind of equity to be able to put up a stadium in DC? That's the only downside I can see here. The next month or two is going to define DC United legacy.

Posted by: strago | May 21, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Chang seems like a real fan and likes the team and the sport. McFarlane was hoping to make money thru ancillary real estate deals and development.

I don't know whether the lack of McFarlane's financial backing will hurt the team and its search for a profitable venue. But the fact that a soccer supporter will be making the most important decisions should be a good thing.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | May 21, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

After meeting Will at the march, and subsequently in the SE beer line, I have to say his interest in the team is absolutely genuine.

Indeed, the

CHANG WE CAN BELIEVE IN!

(Agreed, please make that banner!)

Posted by: -rke- | May 21, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

i cant believe it took til the end of the post for someone to mention McFarlane's money issues. Was it not Steve Goff who mentioned that McF had to put his penthouse in SF on the market because his investments had tanked?

Posted by: BBFunnyMan | May 21, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I don't think we can build that new stadium without a small plaque somewhere to honor Victor's contributions....

Posted by: fischy | May 21, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

New post -- Goff interviews Chang.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 21, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

On another note, the press release on the website also resolves another issue (see the bottom of the page):

"When speaking of the organization, please refer to the team as either “D.C. United” or “United,” but not “the D.C. United” or “the United.” We appreciate your cooperation."

PowerBoater - you stand corrected!

Posted by: Mixter | May 21, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

"After meeting Will at the march, and subsequently in the SE beer line, I have to say his interest in the team is absolutely genuine.

Indeed, the

CHANG WE CAN BELIEVE IN!

(Agreed, please make that banner!)

Posted by: -rke- | May 21, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse
"

HERE HERE!!

Cue the Family Guy: "HOLY CRAP!"

This is shocking news (not really). I'm surprised to read it, but knew it was coming. I could see it in MacFarlane's eyes when I met him at a tailgate. Or it could have just been the beer...

Posted by: adamsunited | May 21, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

@Mixter -- you do realize that every press release has that line, and has done so for a long time? As for PowerCr*pper, I think he knows that. He's just over-compensating...

Posted by: fischy | May 21, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

If McFarlane's company has $10B in assets, couldn't he have just sold a few of those to build a stadium outright? Sure he would have taken losses, but with that kind of money, what do you need more of it for? You can't take it with you, and why not have fun with it while you're alive? It WOULD be fun to become a hero to thousands of soccer fans and leave a kick butt stadium as legacy long after you're gone, no?

Posted by: WorldCup | May 21, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

My head is spinning.

We'll know if this is good or not before too long I'd hazard.

Posted by: kyoung3 | May 21, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Double Wow.

This is very, very bad news for United. Granted McFarland was focused on the Real Estate sise of owning the team.

With McFarland throwing in the towel it just shows you how little prospect United has in securing a venue.

This puts more pressure on an out of area owner. If things don't change pretty quickly or a least a serious light out of the tunnel isn't spotted, then the chances of United staying in DC will drop from slim to none.

I think we have just moved our alert status up to DEFCON 3.

Posted by: dcufan531 | May 21, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I think we have just moved our alert status up to DEFCON 3.

Posted by: dcufan531 | May 21, 2009 1:13 PM

Sorry, I disagree with your conclusions. Seems positive to me.

Posted by: JkR- | May 21, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

If we can get the stadium?

Cha-Chang!!!

Posted by: bs2004 | May 21, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

It's good that the Post covers soccer and other women's sports.

Posted by: logan9 | May 21, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

As someone suggested, Chang-Leonsis has a nice ring to it! Leonsis produced Kicking It, about the 2006 Homeless World Cup. Perhaps there is hope yet.

Posted by: lovinliberty | May 21, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

"Leonsis produced Kicking It, about the 2006 Homeless World Cup. Perhaps there is hope yet."

Hells yeah - even with no stadium, there's a trophy DCU could claim!

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | May 21, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: likebags | May 21, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

It's funny how the trolls and spammers (which are worse??) pop up when Steve's posts get front page and linkage love.

Posted by: Kev29 | May 21, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Folks wake up to reality. DC and every other city/state in the united states is having budget issues, not to mention tighter credit markets. When the Mayor is proposing charging City residents for street lights I don't think talking about another stadium is in the budget. Same for Prince George's, where they were talking about closing schools, cutting teachers and they are already furloughing folks.

It's time for another local jurisdiction to step up in the stadium game. Hear that VIRGINIA! Arlington/Alexandria.

why isn't it feasible for DC United to partner with a local university like Catholic or Maryland, or even George Mason for a nice stadium. Isn't GMU looking to start football in the next 5 years?

Posted by: oknow1 | May 21, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

As someone suggested, Chang-Leonsis has a nice ring to it! Leonsis produced Kicking It, about the 2006 Homeless World Cup. Perhaps there is hope yet.

Posted by: lovinliberty | May 21, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse


I agree Chang-Leonsis has a great ring to it. It seems that they are like-minded owners. Look at what Leonsis has done for the Caps. Turned a sub-par team with low fan base and turned it into "Rocking the Red" into the playoffs.

But, I don't want to get my hopes up in fantasy land that Leonsis will join and the Chang/Leonsis era brings us a stadium.

Posted by: dogboy | May 21, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Good riddance to MacFarlane...he was never invested in the team, just in the opportunity to get into the Poplar Point development. It might have been the top reason, but I'm sure, somewhere in the back of their minds, the obvious self-interest of MacFarlane had something to do with how the Fenty Administration has stiffed DC so far on the stadium. Here is hoping new blood revives a DC Stadium.

Posted by: jnel | May 21, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

This is a great development for the team. Will has been the heart and soul of the new ownership group since he came on and can provide a coherent and single minded vision for team operations and getting a new stadium. Will can be more flexible re stadium negotiations as he's not fixed on having a huge residential/commercial component with the stadium. Victor made his best offer (and it was a good one) to both DC and PG county and for mostly bad reasons he was shut out...the team will be better served now by a new strategy so we can begin to focus on the team rather than the stadium tales...Congrats to Will!

Posted by: ananda001 | May 22, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

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