South Florida is rife with excitement following Major League Soccer’s announcement that Miami will be awarded an MLS franchise. After a tumultuous four years, David Beckham has seemingly rounded up the partners and money he needs to bring a first division franchise back to South Florida for the first time in 16 years.
His ownership group will include known names such as Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure and reality TV producer Simon Fuller (creator of American Idol), both of whom have made up core of investors from the beginning, as well as SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son and the likely majority owners, Jorge and Jose Mas.
Although the stadium site debacle and repeatedly delayed announcements have taken up much of the media talk surrounding the future club, a larger issue has lurked beneath. Namely, finding suitable financial partners willing to bring big money to the table.
Beckham’s search for cash has attracted interest from around the world, with investors from China, the Qatari owners of Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich reportedly having expressed interest. The latest big name attached was Todd Boehly, a career investor and part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who dropped out in late last year as the Mas brothers came in.
Now, the group has not only the financial power to put together a superstar team with shiny new facilities, but a Miami connection that it desperately needed.
The Mas family may not be well known outside of South Florida and the Cuban diaspora, but in Miami they are part of the top echelon. Jorge and Jose Mas are chairman and CEO, respectively, of MasTec, a multi-billion dollar engineering and construction company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The Mas brothers were born in Miami to a Cuban immigrant family that fled the island after the Cuban revolution.
Their father, Jorge Mas Canosa, founded the company that would later become MasTec, and was a chief leader of Cubans in exile during the 1980s and 90s, establishing the influential Cuban American National Foundation. When he died unexpectedly in 1997 at the age of 58 from complications related to lung cancer, tens of thousands mourned him publicly in Miami. Many wept in the streets. Jorge would take up the reins as chairman in both of his father’s organizations.
The family represents a story very familiar to many Miamians, of an immigrant family fleeing a beloved homeland they could no longer live in, to build themselves up and become successful, in this case massively, in a new country. Today extended members of the family are involved in business, foundations, and philanthropy across South Florida.
One glaring hole in Beckham’s quest for a club so far had been finding a nexus with Miami. Through the whole ordeal, the lid has been kept tightly sealed on planning and considerations for the club, with only a handful of public meetings held when needed, and limited information provided. There’s been little consultation with the community in this regard.
Meanwhile, the Mas brothers have been looking to get into the sports business. They were in contention to buy the Miami Marlins from owner Jeffrey Loria, and offered over $1 billion to do so. Ultimately the team was sold to Derek Jeter, whose group the Mases tried to join as majority owners before having the offer declined.
By attaching the Mas family name to his franchise, Beckham has made an intelligent choice, with a family that Miamians know and respect, and who continue to be active around the community. It’s a significant development that should indicate, hopefully, that Beckham’s MLS project is planning to bring themselves closer to the residents of the county it aims to call home.
The sixth investor, Masayoshi Son, has the lowest profile so far, but could be the most beneficial. The CEO of Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank is worth $23 billion according to Forbes magazine, and is the richest man in Japan. He got there by being a savvy and relentless marathon investor, dropping billions annually on everything from satellites to kale-farming. He even owns a baseball team, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, who’ve won the Japanese national championship four times since 2011. Despite the large sums of money involved in his ventures, Bloomberg reported “Son is largely hands-off after cutting a check.”
So the Mas family it is. A discerning accomplishment by Beckham and his group which no doubt will raise interest in the team and hopefully make fans keen to support the new club at the gates.