NBA Billionaires David Blitzer, Ryan Smith Buy MLS Club Real Salt Lake

A group led by David Blitzer, co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils, has reached an agreement to purchase MLS club Real Salt Lake for nearly $400 million, according to people familiar with the talks.

Blitzer will become the controlling owner of the club, and its main representative in league matters, according to the people, who were granted anonymity because the details are private. Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Arctos Sports Partners, a private equity fund with investments across many leagues, are also part of the group.

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The agreement includes the USL’s Real Monarchs, Rio Tinto Stadium and a nearby training complex, considered one of the league’s nicest. Sportico recently valued Real Salt Lake at $420 million, ranked 22 out of 27 current MLS franchises.

Representatives for MLS, the new owners and Inner Circle Sports, which was hired to facilitate the sale, declined to comment on the financial terms.

The deal will end a drawn-out sale process that dates back to 2020, when RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen was accused of racist behavior. Hansen agreed to sell the team, but MLS took over the process last January when he failed to find a buyer. While the league engaged with roughly a dozen other interested parties, Blitzer’s group was the front-runner for at least the last few months.

Real Salt Lake is the latest addition to a rapidly expanding sports portfolio for Blitzer, who is on the cusp of becoming an investor in all five major U.S. leagues. In addition to Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NBA’s 76ers and NHL’s Devils, the Blackstone executive is a minority investor in the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and, as Sportico reported last month, he is also nearing a deal to acquire a significant minority stake in MLB’s Cleveland Guardians.

Blitzer has a number of soccer holdings as well, including English Premier League club Crystal Palace, the Bundesliga’s FC Augsburg and Belgium’s Waasland-Beveren.

Real Salt Lake won its lone MLS Cup title in 2009 and was runner-up in 2013. The team averaged 18,121 fans during the 2019 season, the last full pre-pandemic campaign, and averaged about 15,643 this past year.

The team is just the latest MLS club to sell in the past 12 months. In May, the Wilf family, owners of the Minnesota Vikings, agreed to purchase Orlando City SC and its stadium for $400 to $450 million. Two weeks later, real estate developer Ted Segal purchased Houston Dynamo FC for about $400 million. MLS was also witness to an ownership shake-up at Inter Miami CF that valued the club at roughly $600 million, and the league is still considering an expansion location for its 30th franchise.

Major League Soccer, like the NBA, MLB and NHL, recently changed its ownership rules to allow for private equity investments. Funds are allowed to acquire passive minority stakes in up to four teams, and they can own up to 20% of a franchise (though, no franchise can sell more than 30% of its total equity to institutional investors). Ares Management Corp. recently invested $150 million into Inter Miami as part of that ownership shuffle.

Smith purchased the Jazz in Oct. 2020 for $1.6 billion. He expressed interest in Real Salt Lake early in the sale process, but was not active in talks for much of the last year.

(This story has been updated with the purchase price in the first paragraph and to include Ryan Smith in the owners group in the second paragraph.)

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