Orlando City majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva confirmed reports on Wednesday that he is, indeed, negotiating a deal to hand over ownership of the club to the Wilf family, owners of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The deal, which is expected to be completed within the next few months, will include control of the MLS club, the Orlando Pride, Exploria Stadium, the training facility, and all other related assets.
Here is the full statement released by da Silva this afternoon:
“After eight years, a new chapter has opened for Orlando City SC, as I announce today that we are in advanced negotiations with the Wilf family to purchase Orlando City SC of MLS, the Orlando Pride of the NWSL and our related soccer assets. With their passion for the sport and Orlando’s two teams that are in position to compete for trophies, I am confident that the Wilf family will continue to push Orlando City SC to new heights and lead the Club into this next phase, both on and off the field.
In 2013, I became the majority owner of a thriving team in the United Soccer League that I knew had an unlimited potential to become one of the most exciting clubs in America. Today, I can confidently say that both Orlando City SC and the Orlando Pride have set the standard for soccer organizations around the world, a true testament to the dedication of our passionate supporters — fans, front office staff, players, minority owners and partners — that continuously fueled us to strive for unprecedented success.
As I look back, I am proud of all we have accomplished during my tenure as majority owner. On March 8, 2015, we reached the first of many milestones we set for ourselves, with 62,510 fans making history and introducing Major League Soccer to Orlando City SC. A year later, we brought women’s soccer to Central Florida in front of another record-setting crowd.
We fulfilled our promise and opened the doors to our beautiful privately-financed stadium in downtown Orlando, and delivered two state-of-the-art training facilities for our teams. Our home, Exploria Stadium, has not only hosted some of the game’s biggest international events, but has also become the blueprint for soccer-specific venues across the country.
We’ve welcomed some of the world’s global icons to our teams, while also establishing an academy that will produce the future stars of our sport, and made some incredible memories in between it all.
While we expect the acquisition to be finalized over the coming months, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you, the Orlando City SC family, for being a part of my journey and for embracing our Club as such an integral part of our community.
Forever A Lion,
Flavio Augusto da Silva”
The Wilf family has been trying to gain control of an MLS franchise since being out-bid for an expansion team in Minnesota by Bill McGuire, head of the group that currently owns Minnesota United. In August 2017, Zygi Wilf, his brother Mark Wilf and his cousin Leonard Wilf became minority owners of Nashville SC — an ownership stake that they will now be required to sell in order to gain full control of Orlando City.
They became owners of the Vikings in 2005, buying the team for around $600 million. In 2016, they opened U.S. Bank Stadium, a $1 billion facility in downtown Minneapolis that saw the Wilfs chip in just under half of the total construction costs, with the city and state picking up the rest of the tab.
As of 2017, the family was valued at over $5 billion, vaulting Orlando City, and the Pride, into the top tier of wealthy ownership groups in American soccer. They will become the 7th club in MLS to be owned by the controlling groups of NFL franchises (Dallas, Atlanta, New England, Charlotte, Columbus, Colorado).
The sale comes as no real surprise given that Orlando has been reportedly on the market for some time now. In 2019, da Silva stated in an interview that he would be open to selling the club around the time he turned 50 years old to focus on his philanthropy. Last October, it was reported by Forbes that Orlando City was nearing a deal to sell the club, but the buyer was not known at the time. Then in March, The Athletic was first to report that the Wilf family was in advanced talks to buy the club.
da Silva has been the majority owner of Orlando City since 2013. His fortune helped pay for the $70 million expansion fee that secured Orlando into Major League Soccer. In 2015, after initially reaching a deal with local officials to publicly fund the building of a new soccer-specific stadium in downtown Orlando, da Silva announced that he would instead turn to privately financing the entire project, for somewhere around $125 million.
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