Soccer: Owner working to sell 49 percent of RSL

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While Real Salt Lake prepares for the game that could send it into the league championship, owner Dave Checketts is negotiating to sell nearly half of the Major League Soccer team to local real estate developer Dell Loy Hansen.

Spokesman Eric Gelfand confirmed Tuesday that Checketts and his Sports Capital Partners Worldwide are close to selling 49 percent of the team to Hansen, though the deal has not closed yet. Gelfand declined to reveal the price Hansen will pay.

"We are in advanced discussions," Gelfand said.

Meanwhile, RSL leaves today for its game against the Chicago Fire in the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference final on Saturday. If it wins, the team will reach the MLS Cup championship game for the first time.

"We're in a great groove right now," midfielder Andy Williams said.

The owner of the Wasatch Property Management real estate firm based in Logan, Hansen declined an interview request Tuesday. His assistant said a confidentiality agreement prevents Hansen from discussing the deal -- though Hansen recently confirmed his involvement in the weekly business newspaper, The Enterprise , saying he will be "considered the local partner" for the team.

"Everybody felt that it would really add some punch to have a local partner," he told the newspaper. "I'll be primarily responsible for financial, payables and sponsorship relationships with Real."

All of the proceeds from the deal will remain with RSL, sources within the organization said, and are not tied to Checketts' effort to buy the NFL's St. Louis Rams.

Nor does the sale indicate the team is facing financial problems, the sources said. Rather, it's designed to strengthen the financial position of the team, Rio Tinto Stadium and KALL Radio, the organization's broadcasting arm. Checketts will retain a controlling interest in the team.

Checketts and his ownership group have grown to like the idea of a "local partner," especially after including one in their ownership of the NHL's St. Louis Blues.

Hansen told The Enterprise he plans to "brand" many of his real estate holdings along the Wasatch Front -- they include numerous apartment complexes and the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Salt Lake City -- by decorating them with RSL flags and banners and offering game tickets for sale. His company also will sponsor housing for 20 players and staff members, and strive to find local opportunities that RSL otherwise might miss.

"We want to make a little bit bigger noise throughout Utah," he said.

Hansen accompanied Checketts and other team officials to RSL's 3-2 playoff victory at Columbus last weekend, and was in the locker room when Checketts congratulated the team.

Gelfand did not offer a timetable on the closing of the deal, except to say the sides are "pretty close."

Terms are not expected to be disclosed.

But considering that the newest forthcoming teams in MLS paid expansion fees of $40 million each, it's likely that Hansen is paying at least almost $20 million for his portion of the team. The price tag could be much higher, however -- perhaps some $51.5 million -- depending on how much of the $65 million in private investment in Rio Tinto Stadium is included in the valuation of the team.