Back in August, we heard noise from a deep-money source that a United Arab Emirates sheik was prepared to pay a ton of money for a New York-based MLS team. The owner was reportedly lobbying for "crazy benefits and tax breaks."
Some nine months later, The New York Times reports that Abu Dhabi sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan is set to pay $100 million for the rights to the team—more than double the expansion price for a Montreal MLS team in 2012. The new stadium will be located in Flushing, Queens, somewhere just outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium and the USTA's tennis campus. The deal is apparently a few weeks away.
Our source said in August that the sheik was "filthy rich," but he also said he was from Dubai. It's unclear if this is the same guy or if there are a few oil magnates from the Middle East who really wanted to buy a Queens soccer team. The Times story notes that MLS didn't want to negotiate with the Qatari family since they have some very awkward ties with Hamas. But Abu Dhabi? Come on in.
This oil and gas mogul, Sheik Mansour, does pass the filthy rich test. The Times says he's worth $4.9 billion and his family is worth about $150 billion. He owns Manchester City in the U.K., which is probably why he wants this team in New York. The Times reports:
A New York franchise could help develop young players for Manchester City, Szymanski said, while Sheik Mansour positions himself in the event M.L.S. takes off in terms of attracting a wider television audience, offering larger salaries and becoming more appealing to soccer fans in the United States who now prefer the international game.
Buying into M.L.S., Szymanski said, may also be a subtle signal by Sheik Mansour that he has other alternatives if he begins to feel impinged by a European soccer initiative called Financial Fair Play. This is an attempt to curb runaway deficit spending and restrict teams to income generated from broadcast rights, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, merchandising and competition prize money.
Well, even if his interest in a New York team is all about leveraging his prized European soccer trophy, that seems just fine to MLS officials.
And what about the fabled Cosmos and their inevitable move to MLS? Still waiting.