After 17 seasons, the Columbus Crew announced Tuesday that the team has its second owner after the Hunt Sports Group sold the entirety of the club to Precourt Sports Ventures and Managing Partner and new team Chairman Anthony Precourt.
The move comes after a long search by the Hunt family to find minority ownership for the team, and the “100 percent” purchase came as a surprise even to Clark Hunt, Chairman of Hunt Sports Group.
“Anthony came to us and during the summer said, ‘I’m not just interested in being a minority owner of the Crew. I want to own the whole team and run and operate it,’” Hunt said. “We were initially very taken aback by his interest, but after we got to know Anthony, we concluded that he was the right guy to lead the Columbus Crew, that he would be a great fit for the City of Columbus, that he would be somebody that would push the team to be successful and ultimately be a great partner for the other investors in Major League Soccer.”
This is Precourt’s first venture into sports ownership, and the former investment banker and security analyst said that owning a sports team has always been a dream, and that purchasing the team from the Hunts was an honor.
“This is a really special moment for me and my family,” Precourt said at a press conference introducing the new ownership Tuesday. “As a passionate sports fan and a member of a multi-generational soccer household and energy investor, I’ve long admired the contributions the Hunt family has made to both business and sports, including their commitment to Major League Soccer and the Crew. With this honor, we will respectfully and diligently try to uphold Lamar’s vision for the Columbus Crew. Further, we will honor his fan-first mentality which started with the Crew playing in the first soccer-specific stadium in the league.”
Often, new ownership from outside of a city can suggest a move in the franchise’s future. But Precourt assured Crew fans repeatedly that he has no plans of taking the team from Columbus.
“All you need to know is that I’m very committed to Columbus, and I’m here with you,” he said. “We see a clear path of success here in Columbus. We have all the resources we need to make the Crew increasingly relevant locally and nationally, stronger financially and more competitive on the field.”
Also in attendance at the press conference was Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, who made it a point to reiterate Precourt’s promise to keep the team in the city.
“You all know me pretty well,” he said. “You know my first question [to Precourt] was, ‘Is the Crew staying in Columbus?’ He said, ‘absolutely.’”
Though Precourt declined to specify the price of the deal, he confirmed that the transaction was effective immediately, and that Precourt Sports Ventures controlled 100 percent of the team.
While Precourt said that the team’s on-field product, ticket sales, naming rights and other issues are an important and immediate priority, no drastic changes will be made until the group has assessed the team in the coming months.
“We’re going to be thoughtful and thorough in the decisions that we make,” he said. “We’re not going to make knee jerk reactions. Our intent is to come in and have it be status quo here for a while, learn and ask a lot of questions, and by season’s end we’ll start to build our business plan for the following year and we’ll be probably be making some changes.”