Oscar De La Hoya, the Golden Boy, recently purchased 20 percent of the Houston Dynamo, reigning two-time Major League Soccer champs. On its face it looks like just another former athlete buying into a sports league different than the one in which they compete; like Joe Gibbs buying into NASCAR, or Wayne Gretzky buying into Canadian Football.
But there’s something problematic about this move. Why would De La Hoya want only 20 percent of the Dynamo? Obviously, it makes sense to buy into the MLS — it’s an exciting product — but why masquerade the fact that you’re eventually going buy the team outright? Aren’t you going to be the face of ownership anyway?
Maybe De La Hoya is feeling guilty. Isn’t the Golden Boy from Los Angeles, born and raised? There’s two MLS franchises in town, right? “Why might he chose to purchase a franchise elsewhere?” his homies might ask, hypothetically.
Well neither is really for sale right now. The Galaxy are owned by Phil Anschutz, owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), and one of the founding investors of MLS. The other, Club Deportivo Chivas USA, is owned by Mexican businessman Jorge Vergara, who also owns Mexican League giant Chivas de Guadalajara.
Here’s where it gets interesting… It just so happens that AEG, based in Los Angeles, owns two MLS teams, the L.A. Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo, and wants to sell one.
L.A. has David Beckham playing on the rightside. Houston’s got Ricardo Clark, Brian Ching and Dwayne De Rosario and back-to-back titles. Which team do you think Anschutz is willing to sell?
De La Hoya was offered a piece of Houston. The reason? They don’t have Beckham. Anschutz, once the owner of six MLS teams (Colorado Rapids, NY/NJ MetroStars, DC United, Chicago Fire) is rumored to have been inspired to invest in MLS after watching the play of Beckham. Anyway, he’s now sold all but the Galaxy and Dynamo outright as the MLS has intentionally trended towards single-entity ownership.
Then what about Chivas USA, you ask? You gotta think they’re for sale! And on the cheap, right?
Maybe De La Hoya is an elitist. He’s rich. He’s talented. He’s rich. He moved out of L.A. when he started getting millions for Pay-Per-View fights and probably hasn’t gone back but a handful of times since. It’s all but certain he no longer associates physically, even mentally, with the kind of fan Chivas attracts. After all, why go back there when you’ve already moved away? He probably didn’t want the pressure of being owner of THEIR team, THEIR passion, THEIR struggle.
De La Hoya instead chose to invest some of the $600 million he’s earned in the ring in Houston, on the Dynamo, rather than in his home town. It may not be a dubious move but it certainly is ambiguous, kind of like De La Hoya. Maybe the affluent Tex-Mex CEOs are more his style.