Elam Baer, a Minnesota businessman, told The Star on Monday that he is in “early-stage discussions” to purchase the FC Kansas City women’s professional soccer team.
No agreement has been reached, though Baer said he hoped a resolution would be reached by the end of the year.
If such a sale is finalized, Baer said he has “no intention of moving the team from Kansas City.”
FC Kansas City, which won back-to-back National Women’s Soccer League championships in 2014 and 2015, is currently owned by Chris Likens and his two sons, Greg Likens and Brad Likens, along with Brian Budzinski. The latter three also own the Kansas City Comets men’s pro indoor soccer team and have been in a legal dispute over that arrangement since August.
The FC Kansas City owners are currently under investigation by the NWSL after a series of sexually suggestive emails was released to media earlier this year.
Baer, who is the founder and CEO of North Central Equity in Minneapolis, said he is in negotiations with the Likens family and the league offices to purchase at least a majority stake in the team.
“I would want to keep the team in Kansas City. I’m in the business of acquiring other businesses. If it’s not broke, I don’t fix it,” Baer said. “They have a nice fan base down there. They have coaches. They have a whole front office. I have no intentions of rebuilding that here.”
Baer is not part of the group interested in bringing Major League Soccer to Minnesota.
In a statement, FC Kansas City said it would not comment on any speculation regarding the team’s ownership. A club spokesperson said FC Kansas City has not yet decided which representatives would attend the NWSL ownership meetings on Oct. 28 in Chicago.
FC Kansas City is one of the charter members of the 10-team league but missed the playoffs this year for the first time since the inception of the NWSL in 2013.
Baer said he began scouting FC Kansas City during the 2016 season, attending one home match and one of the club’s road matches in Orlando. During the latter part of the season, he said he approached the Likens family about a potential purchase.
If ownership changes are made with FC Kansas City, the National Women’s Soccer League would be “very involved” in the process, spokesman Patrick Donnelly said. He added that any new ownership groups would have to be approved by the 10-team league, which is in its fourth year.
NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush has expressed interest in expanding the league to other markets, including California, but has said that the league would prefer to have expansion teams enter the league in pairs. Buying an existing team, therefore, could offer a quicker route to entry.
“I am a longtime soccer fan. I think soccer is on what I call an investment trend line,” Baer said. “I think it’s got a lot of upside. FC Kansas City has had a lot of on-the-field success. It is an existing team, which means I don’t have to go through the start-up phase, which is always difficult in a new business.”
Baer said he is not interested in purchasing the Comets. Budzinski and Brad and Greg Likens remain the three co-owners of the Comets. But on Aug. 3, Budzinski sued Brad and Greg Likens, seeking damages of $3.075 million for being excluded from the team’s decision-making process. That case has since been moved to federal court.
The members of the two clubs’ ownership groups have also disputed the authenticity of the sexually suggestive emails, which The Star received in March from an unidentified source. In one strand of the emails, Chris Likens sent Brad Likens, Greg Likens and Budzinski several pictures of scantily dressed women. In another, an email from Chris Likens says, “I have a couple of the soccer players already living there ... and three horses ... I ride everything every chance I get.”
In a statement in August, Brad Likens accused Budzinski of fabricating the emails and sending them to members of the media under the name of a former employee of the Comets, Sara Matthews. When contacted by The Star, Matthews said, “I am not the sender and decline any involvement.”
Budzinski said the emails are valid, and he has since made them available to The Star by granting access to his email account.
Donnelly said the NWSL is still investigating the authenticity of the emails.