Chicago billionaire Joe Mansueto buys Chicago Fire
Change is coming to the Chicago Fire, and it's not just the club's home stadium.
The Fire announced Friday Andrew Hauptman sold his controlling interest in the club to Chicago businessman Joe Mansueto. Mansueto had purchased 49 percent of the club last year.
Mansueto is executive chairman of Morningstar, a financial information company based in Chicago. He founded Morningstar in 1984 and stepped down as CEO more than a year ago.
According to Forbes magazine, Mansueto's net worth is $3.8 billion. Mansueto has not spoken with the media covering the club since buying into the club in July 2018.
Hauptman, from Beverly Hills, purchased the club in 2007 from original owner Phil Anschutz, a year after it moved to the new stadium in Southwest suburban Bridgeview. Things went well on the field at first, starting with two seasons that ended in the conference championship game.
But since 2010 the Fire made it to the MLS playoffs just twice, in 2012 and 2017, and is on the verge of missing the playoffs again this season. The club didn't win a playoff game in 2012 or 2017, scoring just 1 playoff goal.
Meanwhile, relations between the team's supporters and Hauptman grew antagonistic. In 2013 the Fire's senior director of communications at the time, Dan Lobring, wrote an editorial for the team website lambasting fans. Club sources said Hauptman was directly involved with the editorial, but Hauptman denied it.
"What the Fire has achieved has been transformational for the club and the city of Chicago. We've significantly increased soccer's presence and built an ecosystem that rivals any club across North America," Hauptman said. "I'm extremely proud of the positioning of the club at this historic juncture. I know that the next step of returning to Soldier Field will make Chicago proud and I look forward to cheering on Joe, the club and its supporters as they continue this legacy."
Attendance dropped as the club struggled on the field and off. This season the Fire is last in attendance in MLS, averaging 11,926, more than 2,000 fans fewer than the team with the next lowest attendance, Colorado.
The Fire announced earlier this summer it will pay $65.5 million to the Village of Bridgeview to get out of the SeatGeek Stadium lease that was to end after the 2036 season. The team is nearing a deal to play at Soldier Field starting in 2020, as it did its first few seasons starting in 1998.
Under Mansueto, the Fire is expected to try to build a soccer-specific stadium within the Chicago city limits.
The team has said it will continue to use SeatGeek Stadium as its training facility, although Mansueto also could join the MLS trend to build a state-of-the-art training facility.
This is the second season the club has not had a local television deal, opting instead to stream its games on ESPN+. It has never had a local English-language radio deal to broadcast games.