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Sports,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

New ownership will try to find a stadium site

Jason Levien isn't afraid of doing what it takes to put the D.C. United's pursuit of a new stadium back on course after years in a holding pattern.

"We see a pathway," Levien said at his official introduction alongside Erick Thohir as the team's two new managing partners Tuesday on the top floor of the W Hotel. "We also know that we're going to have to use our machete to get there, and we're ready to do so."

But the addition of Levien and Thohir, in a three-way partnership with the team's former majority owner, Will Chang, is expected to impact D.C. United at all levels right away. With their investment, Thohir and Levien become the largest single ownership entity of the team. Though Chang's stake is less, the three maintained that they will be equal parties in the club's major decisions.

Levien, who is based in New York but has both academic and professional roots in Washington, will become the face of the franchise.

"I've been somewhat frustrated in trying to get a stadium negotiation going because I'm not here all the time," said Chang, who is based in San Francisco. "I needed someone who would give us continued presence on behalf of ownership here, and Jason will be here all the time."

While Levien works the local channels, the deep-pocketed Thohir will bring the financial muscle. The Indonesian media magnate was turned on to investing in Major League Soccer after bringing the Los Angeles Galaxy to his home country last fall. In concert with Levien, with whom he had also become a minority owner of the Philadelphia 76ers last October, Thohir said he was drawn to D.C. United's history of four MLS championships, its unrealized potential and the relationship with Levien and Chang.

"We invest here doesn't mean we're going to make money in one year," Thohir said. "But again, we want to make this club healthy so they can reinvest in the players, and the stadium is more for the business."

Levien said he doesn't have it all figured out and doesn't want to call another news conference until he can put a shovel in the ground. The club remains focused on Buzzard Point in Southwest, where Levien will have to navigate both political and private players if it is to become D.C. United's new home.

"I think at this point the advantage that we have is we're bringing a fresh perspective to this," Levien said. "I want to move quickly, but I also want to move thoughtfully through it, and we have to evaluate what those options are."

A top to bottom evaluation of the club is also likely. In the meantime, Thohir said the team will consider spending money on players during the summer transfer window but doesn't want to disrupt the chemistry of a team currently in first place. Of course, that's part of what makes his investment so exciting.

"We're going to have the resources to -- we really don't have any restrictions on what we can do," United president Kevin Payne said. "That doesn't mean we're going to rush out and do silly things and throw money around. But at least as we're planning, we know that within reason, we can do pretty much whatever we need to do to grow the brand."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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