Is Anthony Precourt Playing Austin Too?

IT’S TIME FOR SOME GAME THEORY

Whenever someone’s motives are hard to understand, it’s tempting to wonder if you aren’t being told the entire story.

So let’s play connect the dots. The Dispatch and the legacy media in Columbus can’t do this, because it’s rank speculation, but we’re just having fun here, yeah?

1. Anthony Precourt bought into MLS for $68 million, a record price at the time, but in hindsight a bargain. Expansion fees for MLS have now reached $150 million.

2. Precourt promised to keep the team in Columbus, but had a clause put in to his purchase agreement that apparently nobody in Columbus knew about, giving him an out if he moved the team to Austin.

3. Austin hasn’t been one of the oft mentioned candidates for MLS expansion. But San Antonio has – a city that is just an hour away from Austin. If an owner wanted to move, San Antonio would be a logical target. But Precourt can’t move there. He can only move to Austin.

4. Columbus city leadership seems to have no idea what Precourt wants. You don’t have to read between the lines to see that president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership Alex Fischer is pissed. He told Laura Newpoff at Columbus Business First: “We offered millions in additional community sponsorships, as well as an offer to buy the team. Mr. Precourt wasn’t interested,” he said. “I guess we are learning why.

“It appears he and others have long had a secret plan to try to move the team to Austin, starting with what has been reported as an ‘escape clause’ in his 10-year agreement that no one was aware of, and months of private discussions in Austin. It’s a shame leaders here in Columbus have been misled for so long.”

Precourt doesn’t seem to be dealing with Columbus leadership in good faith. What reason could there be for that, except that he doesn’t want Columbus to work?

5. Also in that Newpoff article is a statement from Austin’s mayor that landing an MLS team “hasn’t been a priority for Austin.” This is either because they expected San Antonio to bid for an expansion team or, perhaps more likely, they have known for years that the Crew might be coming.

6. Precourt is having a hard time keeping his no comments straight, saying repeatedly he doesn’t want to speak about specific stadium locations in Columbus or Austin … but he seems to have slipped when Austin’s riverfront was brought up during his Austin visit on Wednesday, calling it “one of the most attractive pieces of land in the state of Texas. Beautiful waterfront property…”

7. Downtown Austin, just like Columbus, is undergoing a real estate and construction boom. Downtown waterfront property in Austin is some of the most valuable and politically important land in the entire state of Texas. Acquiring land there for a stadium site would be quite a coup.

8. Precourt wants to start with a temporary location at the University of Texas, which is offering use of a 20,000 seat stadium.

9. Austin’s mayor seems to have acquired a verbal tic, where every time he makes a statement on the Crew, he talks about how well an MLS team would do in Austin, but of course with no public financing of a stadium.

10. The question of whether Precourt would move to the University of Texas without a rock solid downtown Austin stadium deal is an interesting one that should be asked, although I’m not sure we would receive a full answer.

11. Because it seems as if it would be a win-win scenario for Precourt to find himself in Austin, with or without a downtown stadium deal.

Why?

Because if he receives a sweetheart deal on some of the most prime real estate in America to build a stadium – well, score, yeah? Jackpot.

If Austin isn’t able to give him what he wants, which seems in the realm of possibility given the politically sensitive location of potential stadium sites, and the mayor repeatedly saying “no public money” then Precourt will have managed to extricate himself from his 2013 purchase agreement, which stipulated he must keep the team in Columbus for ten years.

He would presumably then be free to throw up his hands in exasperation at how difficult Austin turned out to be, and prepare to move his team to whatever city wanted to back up a truck of loot.

Or, alternatively, he’d be the owner of an MLS team that could be sold to the highest bidder in just about any of the expansion cities that lose out in the next round of expansion.

12. There’s even a third wonderful possibility for Precourt: Columbus could bend over backwards and gives him an offer he’d be stupid to refuse (hopefully not one Columbus would be stupid to offer).

Anthony Precourt comes from a venture capital background. It’s important to remember that right now. He’s maneuvered himself into a situation where he seemingly can’t lose.

But he didn’t build this. He just bought it.

Crew supporters are rallying at noon on Sunday, October 22nd at Columbus City Hall. I would encourage non-supporters who hate corporate greed and love Columbus to also consider showing up.

Are there more important things to be outraged about right now?

Of course.

But this is still an outsider trying to damage our home, and that’s not ok.