Welcome to our new series: Union: Behind the Crest. This began in an effort to understand the forces behind the scenes that move the club. We, for our own enrichment, wanted to understand the people and events that make the real game changing decisions concerning the Philadelphia Union. Like any good idea we have, this started as a joke among the editorial staff and inspired us to look into a "few things" to see if what we thought was true, was actually true. After several months of research, emails and phone conversations, we finally emerged from the rabbit hole a bit dazed but confident that we have a handle on the machinations of the Union. What we found challenged our own conceptions about both the club and the individuals involved. We thought it would not only be a good idea to write this all down somewhere semi coherently for posterity sake, but also that we should bring you, our readers, along for the journey. With that, I introduce to you the first in what we hope will be a semi regular series about all things not directly related to what happens on the field Union: Behind the Crest
We begin with the most basic element of any professional club - people and money
The financial health, or lack thereof, of a sports franchise is generally considered to be tied to the personal fortunes of the individuals involved. This is supported by a quote from a very colorful owner of an English club who once famously said:
"The best way for a billionaire to become a millionaire is to buy a football (soccer) club"
At the best of times, figuring the financial health of a sports franchise is a challenging exercise. Trying to get a feel for the financial situation of an MLS club is doubly so. A reasonable starting point would be to begin by looking at the ownership structure of the club itself and then the individuals involved.
The Philadelphia Union is operated by Keystone Sports and Entertainment LLC. New York real estate financier Jay Sugarman is listed as the Chairman/Owner. Nick Sakiewicz is listed as CEO and Operating Partner. The Buccini brothers - Robert and Christopher, and David Pollin who collectively make up the Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) are listed without titles. Additionally, Weston Solutions, and YSC - Graham Investments are both listed under the Ownership banner.
The majority of the individuals in the ownership group are involved in the finance and development of real estate. The ownership is lead by:
The Chairman/Owner is Mr. Jay Sugarman. Sugarman heads iStar Financial Inc. which Bloomberg defines as:
"iStar Financial Inc. is a real estate investment trust. The Company provides financing to private and corporate owners of real estate nationwide, including senior and junior mortgage debt, senior and mezzanine corporate capital, and corporate net lease financing"
Forbes listed his personal compensation (including stock options and such) for 2011 as $25,910,306.00, and Equilar Atlas listed his most recent yearly salary as $2,556,366. Sugarman, a Houston native, graduated from Princeton and obtained his MBA from the Harvard School of Business. He was viewed as a young phenom in the financial sector and cut his business teeth managing the personal fortunes of the Burden family, a branch of the Vanderbilt family.
The Buccini Brothers/Dave Pollin: BPG
Robert and Christopher Buccini made their name developing properties in their native Delaware. Dave Pollin, a classmate of Robert's from Cornell, hooked up with the duo after a successful stint managing hotels. BPG (Buccini Pollin Group), has developed, constructed and manages commercial residential and hotel properties mostly in the northeast region of the country. The company website states,
"On behalf of its principals, investors and financial partners, Buccini/Pollin has acquired or developed real estate assets having a value in excess of $3.0 billion, including seven million square feet of office, flex office, and retail space in 69 buildings, 23 internationally branded hotels, and 9 major residential communities."
They are currently the largest private office landlord in the Philadelphia Metropolitan region.
Weston Solutions is a West Chester PA based company that according to several financial sources specializes in:
"...environmental consulting and engineering firm focuses on delivering integrated environmental, property redevelopment, energy, and construction services. It offering include infrastructure redevelopment, including site assessment and remediation, water and wastewater consulting, and permit and compliance management. Weston Solutions provides services from 60 offices worldwide, mainly to US government agencies, industrial clients, and state and local governments. It identifies and resolves problems such as soil and water pollution and hazardous waste and provides decontamination and decommissioning services."
In September 2013 alone Weston secured a long term contract with the US government worth $8,735,799.
YSC - Graham Investments is headed by Richard Graham. Graham is the principal owner of the capital investment firm Striker Partners which is a division of the Graham Group. The Graham group lists its revenue as $3.5 billion annually. Graham also heads up YSC. YSC is the soccer youth development partner of the Philadelphia Union and principal partner and owners of the Philadelphia Union's academy (a.k.a Soccer High).
Taking into account all of the "owners" and their assets, their collective net worth is best measured in the billions and probably more accurately the tens of billions of dollars. To put it in perspective, the Gross National Product of Keon Daniel's native country of Trinidad and Tobago is $13.6 billion. Hardly individuals of small means.
In further installments of the series we will examine the site, it's history, look at the franchise structure itself and the important players in the front office staff and use the information presented here to give you an overall picture of the franchise and how that is related to what happens on the field.
If you like this series and have any suggestions about off the field subjects that you would like to know more about, contact us and let us know. This is your club and we are committed to bringing you the most complete coverage of anything related to the Union