Bill McGuire announces Stars ownership deal
|Photo: Andy Mannix|
|New Stars owner Bill McGuire taking questions after the announcement.|
Twin Cities businessman Bill McGuire announced that he's buying the second-division soccer team during a press conference at Brit's Pub this afternoon. Previously owned by the North American Soccer League, the Stars were in jeopardy of being disbanded just weeks ago, despite winning the championship in 2011 and coming in second this year.
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Hailing it as "one of the most exciting days -- if not the most -- in Minnesota soccer," Stars CEO Djorn Buchholz said the deal marks a new era for the franchise, now entering its 24th year (known previously as the Minnesota Thunder).
Formerly the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, McGuire was named one of the top-10 highest-paid executives of the millennium by MSN Money. In 2006, he left the company during a scandal over problems with how the company issued stock options.
McGuire spoke briefly to a full crowd of media and fans at Brit's clubhouse, offering few details about what his ownership means for the team. He shrugged off a question about how his vision coincides with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf's tentative plan to bring a Major League Soccer team to the new stadium, opening in 2016.
"I look at this as an independent team," said McGuire, emphasizing a sole focus to build up the Stars franchise. "There is nothing more than that right now."
Before McGuire stepped in, many believed Wilf's monopoly on bringing an MLS team to the new stadium would make the Stars less attractive, and without a local owner, the league would dump the team.
Talks with McGuire began in midsummer, said David Downs, NASL commissioner, at the press conference, admitting prospects looked bleak before that.
"It is indeed my great, great pleasure to be standing here today," said Downs before presenting McGuire with a Stars jersey:
Stars head coach Manny Lagos also spoke briefly at the press conference, comparing the accomplishment to his time playing in the Olympics, and vowing to honor the long legacy of the team. "What a great day for Minnesota soccer."
Taking questions from the media, McGuire also gave few details on another problem facing the team: location. The team currently plays at the National Sports Center in Blaine, a 20-some-minute drive from the Twin Cities that has always been an attendance killer.
"I think all of us recognize that the venue has been a challenge in the past," he said.
Though he didn't present a solution today, he noted an ambition to bump attendance up to 10,000 a game, which would be quite an accomplishment, given right now they're averaging around 2,700.
After making the announcement, a spokesman for the Dark Cloud -- the Stars' loudest and most aggressive fan base -- presented McGuire with a welcome tote bag, which included a Dark Cloud scarf, some hot nuts (?), and a couple of Surly beers.
Then they picked up this sign and held it triumphantly in front of the crowd:
|Photo: Andy Mannix.|