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Black History Month: Majority-minority owners make history

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In 2007, a former basketball player and a real estate investor joined forces to form a historic ownership group.

Source: Black Soccer Association

Editor’s note: I skipped yesterday, February 18th, in this series, due in part to it being the day I saw Black Panther in theaters. It was a movie I had been looking forward to for a long time, but didn’t want to fully deny you all the story. This story was to be the one that debuted yesterday, and we will bring you a second daily story later on today.

Major League Soccer, as many know, is a single entity organization where “team” owners buy into the league and, accordingly, are assigned the operating rights to own a particular club. For the first 10 years of the league, there was something very similar about all the owners that held stakes in the various MLS clubs: they were all white. The lack of minority ownership in soccer around the world is something that is continually looked at but rarely addressed.

In 2007, a group came together that broke the color barrier of ownership in MLS. D.C. United Holdings became the company that had the operating rights to D.C. United, purchasing the rights from Anschutz Entertainment Group. However, when the holding group formed in 2007, there was, for the first time, some diversity in the group. Lots of diversity.

Paying $33 million for the operating rights, the largest sum in the history of the league at the time, the group became the first “majority-minority” ownership group in MLS, meaning that the majority of the stake was controlled by racial minorites. The group was led by Victor MacFarlane, an African-American real estate developer from San Francisco; Will Chang, an Asian investor who chaired the Westlake International Group investment firm; and former Duke Blue Devils basketball players Brian Davis and Christian Laettner. Davis and MacFarlane became the first African American owners in MLS history, while Chang became the league’s first Asian-American owner.

MacFarlane was the face of the ownership group until 2009, when he sold his stake in D.C. United Holdings to Will Chang, leaving Chang with a 98% ownership stake in the team. He later bought out Davis and Laettner to solely own the team for a few years before bringing in big money investors Erick Thohir and Steve Levien in 2012.

For the few years that MacFarlane was the face of the team, United enjoyed some success, winning the Supporters Shield in 2007 and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2008. There are now more minority investors in the league, with at least 5 teams having an ownership group that contains a racial minority either from the United States or abroad. Will Chang remains a minority investor in D.C. United. Victor MacFarlane, Brian Davis, and Will Chang’s leadership in assuming control of a MLS franchise in 2007 is what helped spark interest in other minority ownership to this day.