How bad have things gotten for MLS' favorite arrogant, clueless and incompetent "owner" in his quest to move the league's original team to Austin?
Well, aside from all the "Precourt Out!" and "End Corporate Greed" demonstrators, the airplane sign circling over downtown telling him he should use "Daddy's Money" if he wants land, a slew of articles like the one currently up on msn.com entitled "Anthony Precourt is a Monorail Salesman Masquerading as a Pro Sports Owner" and the decisions by local authorities to block him from both of the stadium sites he wanted, yesterday he got some even worse news:
The Attorney General of Ohio is suing him and the league (ie. his partners) for attempting to smuggle the team out of town in violation of state law.
It's gotten so bad that Precourt now says he's seriously considering moving the Columbus Crew to a 22 acre toxic waste site 11 miles from downtown Austin, a site which his chief stooge, Dave Greeley, was unable to locate even though some locals helpfully told him it was in the warehouse district behind the tire store right next to a couple Mexican food trucks and no, I am not making that up.
(Fratboy McTrustfund calls this site "a viable option" that he gets "excited about", although he admits that "some remediation" of deadly chemical waste residue will be necessary. I'm sure his fellow owners can't wait for a tour.)
Precourt's statement, which one journalist characterized as "reeking of desperation and delusion" (not to mention self-pity and grammar which would embarrass a tenth grader) was of course posted on one of the "oafish" astroturf sites PSV runs out of the Crew offices in Columbus.
Outrageously, Precourt's love song to Austin, spelling out just how very, very hard he is working to move the team to Texas, was released last Tuesday night, just eight minutes into the Crew kickoff party held for season ticket holders.
After not uttering one single solitary word in public in the almost five months since last October 18, the timing of the release was obviously deliberate and fully intended as a kick in the crotch to the thousands of fans who forked over substantial amounts of money out of love for a team they're fully aware that an arrogant, entitled owner wants to take away from them.
What had already been a rather subdued, even somber gathering was transformed into an angry crowd scene, but I'm certain Fratboy McDaddysmoney was sitting at home chuckling over his clever "gotcha". The man is a disgrace.
Somebody should ask Don Garber and each of the owners what they think of someone treating loyal MLS season ticket holders this way. It's appalling in its' viciousness and their continued silence in the face of this kind of abuse of their fans - Precourt operates the Crew but the rest of them, collectively, own it - only demonstrates their complicity; silence is consent.
The statement itself is a ridiculous collection of the usual stadium-developer nonsense assuring everyone that "$400 million" worth of economic benefits will flow to the community thanks to his personal generosity. Ponies for everybody.
He, or more likely his embarrassingly amateurish local PR agency, Elizabeth Christian PR, has decided that asking for free land to build a private stadium has a bad connotation, so he instead refers repeatedly to wanting Austin parkland so that he can build a "soccer park and grounds" for the benefit of the citizenry ("soccer wellness" also seems to be a thing) and is clearly hurt that they're not more appreciative. He stops just short of calling them ingrates.
The statement itself, which the Austin Statesman American hilariously characterized as "a serious blow" to Columbus (the jokes write themselves, folks) was quickly followed in the next 12 hours by a pair of interviews from the suddenly chatty Precourt in which he again explained how very, very hard he's trying to bring professional soccer to the people of Austin.
Saddest of all, he lists the small army of people being paid good money to promote his quest for gifts of parkland including a bank, a law firm, two PR firms, a sports architecture company, a project management firm and "local political advisors and consultants" of which, at last count, there are seven.
(We might contrast this with the fact that PSV hasn't spent a cent on marketing in Columbus since early 2017)
Another question for TheSoccerDon, should some reporter happen to grow a pair, is whether MLS is paying for all of these people hard at work down in Austin. We know for a fact that the law firm, the lobbyists and the lead promoter, Richard Suttle, are all on the MLS payroll, since they are legally required to declare who is paying them. Are the rest of this bunch being paid out of SUM - excuse me, I mean MLS - funds as well?
Frankly, given Precourt's well-known reluctance to spend his own money, one strongly suspects so.
The net result of all these highly paid experts feverishly promoting Anthony Precourt has been that the people of Austin are beginning to cordially hate his guts. Not quite to the levels of Columbus, Ohio residents or MLS fans in general, but give them time. They'll surely get there.
The most delusional part of his self-obsessed screed is the full two paragraphs he devotes to explaining to the locals how stupid and ungrateful they were for blocking his effort to confiscate the downtown park known as Butler Shores. He lists all the hard work and expense he went to as if he expects City Council, who were responding to a public outcry when they told him no, to smack themselves in the head and exclaim "What were we thinking?".
Still, it appears that his cheesy attempt at a counteroffensive against all the bad stuff people are saying and in an effort to get back the initiative, did have one apparent effect:
It may have helped convince Ohios' Attorney General, Mike DeWine, that it was time to file suit under what is known as the "Modell Law" which essentially forces a professional team owner who wants to relocate to another state to first offer said team for sale to local interests.
Suffice it to say for the time being that there are a lot of questions yet to be litigated as to the full extent of the applicability and usage of Modell in this case. I'm not a lawyer and I can't say anything much for certain.
What we can however say with a great degree of confidence is that regardless of anything else, a state AG, armed with a very specific law and the almost limitless resources of his office (an office, we might note, located in downtown Columbus Ohio) can make you spend a lot of years and a lot of money proving your point.
And as a declared candidate for governor of Ohio - and a with son sitting on the Ohio Supreme Court who is not required to recuse himself in cases such as this - betting against DeWine might be a bad idea.
The bottom line for now is that while Modell may not be a slam dunk winner, MLS will have serious reluctance to swallow the legal bills, the time and the continuing PR disaster they suddenly find themselves in, all so that some entitled rich kid pet of Don Garbers' can have a shiny toy.
Meanwhile, in Columbus, Precourt's bluff has been called, his lies have been exposed and his presence is no longer even possible.
After all of his and Garber's mewling lies about the market, the group called the Columbus Partners have stepped up big time:
Last December they offered to buy the team outright for $150 million. Precourt originally claimed that there was no offer, then said that the offer was absurdly low and then, just a few weeks ago, said that he didn't sell it because he wants to "give it to my kids someday".
So then he was offered $75 million for 50% of the team, but he turned that down as well because he wanted to "keep full control".
Then, just last week, one single local individual offered to buy 49.5% of the team, based on a $160 million valuation, with the stipulation that the team remain in Columbus. He was turned down flat.
He's also been offered his choice of at least three prime downtown stadium sites complete with a commitment for extensive nearby amenity upgrades like restaurants, bars, etc., an immediate $2 million cash infusion and a huge package of local long term sponsorships. Precourt isn't interested.
Meanwhile, down in Austin nobody will give the guy the time of day.
In fact, despite the blatant lies that he and Garber kept repeating last fall, Precourt never even mentioned a new stadium in Columbus until last September. As one local CEO put it a few weeks ago, "If the guy wanted a new stadium, why didn't he say so?".
The biggest question now is how long will Don Garber and the owners continue to let this arrogant, clueless incompetent drag down the league's reputation before they decide to cut bait and make a deal with the guys in Columbus who stand ready with plenty of cash, prime downtown stadium sites and, of all things in this sad, ugly saga, credibility.
In addition to more or less forcing Ohio's AG to sue the league because of the six month notice provision in the Modell Law, which Precourt stupidly came way too close to triggering with his love poem to Austin, Fratboy did accomplish one other thing with his fan-insulting trickeration last week:
He burned his last bridge in Columbus. There was the feeling in some circles at least that it was still possible to have Precourt come back to Columbus, build him a nice new place and let bygones be bygones.
None of that sentiment remains. It's all used up. Gone.
A little fairness, a little even handedness, just a smidgen of class or decency or any recognizable human emotion would have made something like that possible. Maybe an actual grownup, a real, live commissioner instead of a CEO grubbing for new markets to abuse, could have made a difference too.
As it is, MLS has managed to take an original founding team and allowed it to be stuck in limbo; Columbus will go to great lengths, spend whatever it takes to keep the Crew where everyone knows it belongs, but neither they nor Austin want anything to do with the pariah of an owner who Don Garber manipulated into this position.
The next move has to be up to the other owners to save a hard-won league reputation that is quickly circling the drain.
And paradoxically, maybe AG DeWine, by suing the league, is doing the owners the biggest favor possible: if it's ruled that Precourt must sell the Crew locally, to a group fully prepared to build a first class downtown stadium surrounded by all the amenities anyone could ask for and packed with a newly energized fan base, who would argue that this is not a resolution where everybody wins?