FC Kansas City

Minnesota businessman on verge of purchasing FC Kansas City

The FC Kansas City women’s pro soccer team could be changing ownership soon.
The FC Kansas City women’s pro soccer team could be changing ownership soon. Special to the Star

The FC Kansas City ownership transition appears to be inching toward the finish line.

Elam Baer, a Minnesota businessman, told The Star on Tuesday that he is in the process of purchasing FC Kansas City, a two-time champion in the National Women’s Soccer League, and he expects a resolution before the start of the 2017 season.

Baer reiterated that if the sale is finalized, he will keep the team in Kansas City.

FC Kansas City 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 professional men’s indoor soccer team and have been in a legal dispute over that arrangement since August. Baer is not interested in purchasing the Comets.

Baer said he has been provided an indication that the NWSL team owners have met and approved the FCKC sale, but the transition is a “several monthlong process, and technically, we do not yet own this team.”

Baer, however, has already rented office space in Kansas City.

“The seller is in the process of transferring the company to us,” said Baer, who is the founder and CEO of North Central Equity in Minneapolis. He is not part of the new Major League Soccer ownership group in Minnesota. “But there are still some final things that need to be done to actually close the transaction, and that’s something that doesn’t happen overnight.”

The current FC Kansas City ownership group came under fire late last year after a series of a sexually suggestive emails was released to media, prompting a league investigation.

Baer has hired people to examine and fill current jobs within the FC Kansas City offices. FCKC shares most of its staff members with the Comets, complicating the front-office changeover. Baer said some employees would retain their positions with FC Kansas City but others have requested to stay with the Comets.

“When you look at the enormous on-field success this team has had, I don’t see any reason why I would go in there and make a lot of changes,” Baer said. “The bottom line is we need to sell more tickets and get more sponsorship revenue. If you accomplish those two things, a lot of other problems are solved pretty easily.

“Our emphasis from the get-go is going to be the revenue-generating side of the business. The new people we bring in are pretty much all going to be on the revenue-generating side.”

FC Kansas City won the NWSL championship in 2014 and 2015 before missing the playoffs last year for the first time.

Club general manager Huw Williams reigned last month, citing the desire to focus on his company GSI Sports, which organizes soccer tournaments and other events. He acknowledged the looming ownership change as a factor into the timing of the announcement.

Baer said the general manager duties would likely be split among several different people, with coach Vlatko Andonovski taking full control of the roster. The NWSL college draft is Jan. 12 in Los Angeles.