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Columbus Mayor responds to PSV and MLS with request for potential buyers to review finances

In a surprising letter, Mayor Andrew Ginther claims that prospective buyers would like to review the finances of PSV and MLS in order to move forward with an offer to buy Crew SC.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Exactly three weeks after receiving Precourt Sports Ventures and MLS’s response to Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine’s lawsuit, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther has submitted a response letter.

In his letter, Mayor Ginther reiterates the City of Columbus and State of Ohio’s position that Ohio Revised Code 9.67 does apply in this situation and “rejects any contention” that PSV or MLS has provided the City with notice that Columbus Crew SC intend to leave Columbus.

Then, Mayor Ginther provides an update on Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer’s work to keep Crew SC in Columbus. According to the Mayor, Fischer has located a group of “prospective purchasers” who are interested in purchasing Crew SC. Additionally, Fischer has located multiple downtown locations that may be suitable for an MLS stadium.

The Mayor next asks PSV and MLS, on behalf of the “prospective purchasers” and Fischer, to inspect the finances of PSV and MLS in order to move forward with the preparation of an offer to purchase the team and the process of building a stadium in downtown Columbus.

So what does this letter mean for the #SavetheCrew Movement?

First, Mayor Ginther’s contention that PSV and MLS have not provided notice that Crew SC will cease to play in Columbus is either referring to all potential dates of notice before the March 16, 2018 letter or is an odd disregard of the explicit notice set forth in that letter. PSV and MLS clearly state, in that March 16 letter, that in the absence of prior notice having been provide, the letter itself constitutes notice that the team intends to cease playing in Columbus. ORC 9.67 does not provide any vehicle for delivering this notice, so it seems clear that PSV has indeed fulfilled the notice requirement in ORC 9.67.

Second, Mayor Ginther’s declarations that “prospective purchasers” have both identified potential stadium sights in Columbus AND want to review PSV and MLS’s financials in order to move forward with an offer for the team is a serious statement of intent. Asking to review this information suggests that the the “prospective purchasers” are prepared to dedicate the time, manpower, and finances necessary to review this information and make a legitimate offer for the purchase of the team. This is a big deal.

Of course, the fact that a group wants to purchase Crew SC does not mean that PSV wants to, or must, sell the team. Despite the contention of many, there is no legal requirement that PSV must accept any offer for the team based on some sort of reasonable estimate of the team’s value. If PSV assigns a high value to the team, it is up to a prospective purchaser to meet that price or to move along.

The potential review of PSV and MLS’s financial information also does not mean that the this information will be available for the world to see or used as fodder for a potential lawsuit. In large purchases such as this, it is common that the seller would open up financial records to the buyer before an offer is made. Typically, the buyer will provide the seller with proof that they have the financial capability to actually purchase the team, and then an agreement would be negotiated between the buyer and seller that would allow the buyer to review financial information. However, that review of financial information is typically tied to a non-disclosure agreement, preventing the potential buyer from sharing the information they have gleaned from the financial review.

What this does show, is that there is a group that is serious about purchasing Crew SC. If the offer is good enough, who knows what will happen.