Ron Burkle’s investment in Sacramento Republic FC got a warm welcome in the place where it matters most: Major League Soccer’s headquarters.
MLS executives indicated Tuesday that Burkle’s involvement in Republic FC helps Sacramento’s chances of securing an expansion team.
“We have met with Ron Burkle over the course of the past year about his interest in MLS and are very pleased that he has finalized his agreement to become the lead investor of Sacramento Republic FC,” said MLS executive vice president Dan Courtemanche in an emailed statement. “Sacramento remains a strong expansion candidate and we look forward to meeting with Ron soon to discuss his plans.”
Earlier in the day, Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced that Burkle would replace El Dorado Hills pharmaceutical executive Kevin Nagle as lead investor in the team’s effort to make the leap to MLS. Burkle also tentatively agreed to buy the site of the team’s proposed MLS stadium at the downtown railyard, plus 14 adjacent acres. Burkle plans to turn the 14 acres into an entertainment district.
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David Carter, a sports management expert at USC, agreed that Burkle’s investment puts Sacramento, which had languished in the expansion competition in the past year, in excellent position to secure a slot in MLS. Carter said Burkle’s taking control of the real estate is “critical to the overall expansion bid.”
Sacramento’s chances of getting a team seemed to be fading when MLS officials said in late 2017 that the city needed a billionaire lead investor to gain admission to the league. Burkle’s $2.2 billion net worth and experience in the sports world — as co-owner of hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins — would seem to fit the bill.
Steinberg said he and Burkle, a billionaire supermarket investor from Beverly Hills, plan to visit MLS Commissioner Don Garber in February to discuss the expansion bid.