As they work to counter an ongoing legal challenge, MLS and Columbus Crew SC indicate that they would be willing provide detailed financial information to prospective buyers.
Crew owner Anthony Precourt announced last October that he was exploring a move of the team to Austin. While no relocation plans have been finalized, Columbus and Ohio have sued MLS and Crew, hoping that an Art Modell-inspired law can prevent a move.
The state law, created after Modell moved the original Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, prevents the relocation of a professional sports franchise that has accepted public funding for sports facilities. In the case of MAPFRE Stadium–which originally opened as Columbus Crew Stadium in 1999–the facility itself was privately financed, but the team has accepted free land, below-market leases and parking improvements. In addition, the law stipulates that in order to move, a franchise must first provide six months notice and the opportunity for local investors to buy the team
Legal proceedings continue to unfold, and Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther recently called on the Crew’s ownership to make financial data available for review of prospective buyers. An attorney for MLS recently indicated that the team would be willing to do so, provided that qualified and interested buyers adhere to certain guidelines. More from The Columbus Dispatch:
The email was sent by Marc Kessler, who is representing MLS locally in the lawsuit filed last month in Franklin County by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, to Bridget Coontz, assistant chief of the constitutional offices section with DeWine’s office. It indicates that financial information might be provided to prospective buyers “subject to an appropriate non-disclosure agreement.”
“We intend to seek to move forward with that process,” Kessler wrote.
Earlier this month, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther wrote an open letter to Crew investor-operator Anthony Precourt asking that the team’s and league’s financial data be made available so that prospective buyers can make a serious offer to purchase the team.
The motion filed Monday asks the court to delay discovery — the pretrial gathering of evidence — in the state and city’s suit until Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey M. Brown has ruled on a motion expected to be filed Thursday by PSV and MLS to dismiss the suit on the ground that Ohio Revised Code Section 9.67, commonly referred to as the Art Modell Law, is not enforceable.
Though a bit unusual, that statement does not necessarily mean that Precourt is shopping the Crew. As noted, a move has not been finalized to this point, but the Austin City Council voted last month to move forward with studying the city-owned McKalla Place’s potential as the site of a privately funded MLS stadium. A decision from the city is not expected for a few more months, but the Crew has discussed moving to Austin as early as 2019 and playing at a temporary facility until construction of the new stadium is complete.
Image courtesy MAPFRE Stadium.
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