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The Wilf family, owners of the Minnesota Vikings, are nearing an agreement to purchase Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC from Flávio Augusto da Silva, according to multiple people familiar with the talks.
The deal, which includes the team’s stadium and the NWSL’s Orlando Pride, could be announced as early as next week, according to the people, who were granted anonymity because the negotiations are private. It will likely close in the $400-$450 million range, depending on the final structure.
The family includes Vikings principal owner and chairman Zygi Wilf, Vikings president and co-owner Mark Wilf (Zygi’s brother) and Vikings vice-chairman and co-owner Leonard Wilf (Zygi’s cousin). The Wilfs are also minority partners in MLS club Nashville SC and would need to sell that stake should this deal close.
Orlando City minority owner Albert Friedberg had right of first refusal on any majority sale, terms that were part of his 2018 investment. Friedberg has reached an agreement to sell his stake back to the club, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
Lester Bagley, executive vice president of public affairs for the Vikings, said the Wilf family “continues to evaluate a number of sports, entertainment and real estate assets,” but he declined to comment on any specifics.
A spokesperson for MLS, which would need to approve any agreement, declined to comment. A representative for the team didn’t immediately respond to an email and phone call; Friedberg didn’t immediately return a message left at his office.
A Brazilian entrepreneur, da Silva purchased Orlando City in 2013, back when the club was competing in the USL but hoped to make the jump to MLS. He paid the $70 million MLS expansion fee and the club made its league debut in 2015.
He has been open to a sale for a few years now, according to the people. In 2019, he told a Sao Paolo newspaper that he intended to sell a majority stake in the team in order to focus more directly on philanthropy. Talks have ebbed and flowed since.
The Wilfs have also been interested in MLS ownership for a while. They were among the groups hoping to bring an MLS club to Minnesota about a decade ago (the league eventually chose a different bid), and they later invested in the Nashville club, which Mark Wilf represents at some MLS board meetings. The family has been working with Inner Circle Sports on the Orlando acquisition.
MLS is in the middle of a large expansion push. There were 20 teams in the league when Orlando City joined, and today there are 27, with plans to reach 30 in the next few years. Expansion fees have jumped into the hundreds of millions.
Orlando City, which drew 62,000 fans to the Citrus Bowl for its first MLS home game, made the playoffs last year for the first time in six seasons. The club averaged 22,761 fans at Exploria Stadium in 2019.
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