Orlando City majority owner Flávio Augusto da Silva told a Brazilian publication he is open to selling the club in 2022 when he turns 50 years old to focus on philanthropic efforts.
A club source told Pro Soccer USA, however, Augusto da Silva’s dedication to charity doesn’t mean he would likely sell all shares of the team. Instead, he would just be less involved in club day-to-day operations.
“I’m not making a sale announcement. The announcement is that I will dedicate myself to philanthropy,” Da Silva said in an interview with Brazilian outlet Estadão. “But I believe that the apex of a successful entrepreneur is when the market becomes interested in what he has created to the point of wanting to pay for it and fortunately I’m constantly being sought out by investors.”
That sentiment lines up with what Augusto da Silva told Pro Soccer USA last season when he announced he sold a minority stake in the team to investor Albert Friedberg for about $42.3 million. Augusto da Silva, who at the time sold Friedberg’s stake at a $490.53 million valuation, has a 79 percent ownership stake in the club.
According to Estadão, Augusto da Silva added, “I have several alternatives. I can make the full sale, quit the deal, stay on the board or sell a minority share. Nothing is discarded [or] established.”
The value of an MLS franchise has skyrocketed since Augusto da Silva and Orlando City joined the league alongside NYCFC. Orlando City’s expansion fee was $70 million in 2015. The league recently announced its plans to expand to 30 teams, and expansion fees for the league’s 28th and 29th teams are set at $200 million apiece.
Augusto da Silva’s valuation of the club includes things like season tickets and corporate sponsorships, too.
Orlando City also owns Orlando City Stadium, which is worth $180 million, according to a club source. Last season, Forbes valued Orlando City SC at $272 million – the fifth most valuable MLS club.
“Half a billion dollars, isn’t that too high?” Augusto Da Silva told Pro Soccer USA at the time. “I say no, it’s not too high. Your expectations [are] low. You haven’t realized soccer is already a big deal in this country.
“To start a new franchise, Nashville for example, or any other new franchise, [you] will spend no less than $450 million. To start. Without playing a single game. It’s very important. This deal is very important for the country to understand that soccer is already here and it’s big.”
MLS is set to negotiate a new national TV rights deal in 2022 — which is when the FIFA World Cup will be contested in Qatar. The 2026 FIFA World Cup will have matches played in the United States.
Player salaries come into play, too.
Orlando City was ranked 13th in player spending last season before the summer transfer window, according to salary figures released by the MLS Players Association. That put the team in the middle of the pack after it was No. 3 in 2017 — but that was with Brazilian superstar Kaká’s $7 million-plus salary on the books.
The 2019 salaries for MLS players haven’t been released by the Players Association.