San Jose Earthquakes owner John Fisher has hired a bank to explore the sale of minority shares of the MLS club, according to multiple people familiar with the plans.
Fisher, who owns a large majority of the team, has retained Moelis & Co. to help with the process, according to the people, who were granted anonymity because the details are private. It’s unclear how much of the team he’s looking to sell, or to how many people, and it’s possible deals won’t materialize.
That said, now might be a good time to sell a sizeable limited partnership in an MLS club. A handful of controlling and minority stakes have already sold this year at large valuations. The Earthquakes, which play in an 18,000-seat team-owned stadium, were valued at $510 million in Sportico’s recent valuations.
The Earthquakes declined to comment. Reached via email, a Moelis representative also declined to comment.
Like owners in all major U.S. sports, MLS owners are recovering from a difficult 2020 season interrupted by COVID-19. But MLS is more reliant on gameday revenue than most other leagues, which deepened the financial challenges of the pandemic.
The Earthquakes play in one of the country’s largest media markets—San Jose/San Francisco/Oakland ranks No. 6, according to Nielsen—and one with a large Hispanic population. Its stadium, opened in 2015, was recently renamed PayPal Park in a 10-year deal with the nearby payment giant.
It’s been a busy year for MLS transactions. Orlando City SC and Houston Dynamo FC both sold earlier this year in the $400-$500 million range. A minority stake in D.C. United later sold to NFL player Mark Ingraham at a $710 million valuation, one of the highest valuations ever for an MLS team in a transaction.
Last week Inter Miami owners Jorge and Jose Mas agreed to buy out partners Marcelo Claure and Masa Son at an enterprise valuation of more than $600 million. Sportico’s valuations listed the team at $525 million, two spots ahead of the Earthquakes.
Fisher also owns MLB’s Athletics, which are discussing relocation if they can’t get approval for a stadium project in Oakland. He is a minority owner of Scottish soccer club Celtic FC.