As reported by The Athletic, The Orlando Sentinel, and others back in May, Orlando City Soccer Club has officially been sold to the Wilf family, owners of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The deal sees Mark Wilf take over as the club’s chairman and governor, while Zygi and Lenny Wilf will also be managing partners. There are still no official numbers on the sale, but the number was reported to be between $400-450 million.
“We are humbled to become stewards of Orlando City SC and the Orlando Pride, clubs with strong and established foundations on the pitch, with renowned supporters and a passionate fan base, and in a community we are extremely proud to represent,” said new Chairman Mark Wilf.
The sale includes both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride, as well as Exploria Stadium, both teams’ training facilities, and the Orlando City Development Academy. When looking at what assets in particular they want to invest in, Mark Wilf noted the academy and the Pride, per the Sentinel.
“We have some of the greatest female athletes on our squad,” Wilf said. “The Orlando Pride is one of the great franchises in sports, and we want to build on that. We know young people want to have the opportunity to support sports, and there should be an equal footing for that kind of support. We want to be supportive of that with the Pride.”
With the academy, Wilf stated youth development as “long-term investment” and a priority for the club moving forward. The academy system is arguably the strongest it’s ever been, with a U-17 national championship at MLS NEXT and multiple academy graduates, including Michael Halliday and Benji Michel, working their way into the first team. With even further investment, this could be just the beginning.
The Wilfs will be joined by Orlando Magic owners the DeVos family, who are now minority investors in Orlando City. The DeVos family have owned the NBA’s Orlando Magic since 1991 and are significant figures in Orlando professional sports.
“We are also thrilled to welcome the DeVos family as part of our ownership group,” Mark Wilf added. “Dan and the DeVos family are synonymous with Orlando sports and community. They are a valued and strong strategic partner as we move forward and work to create sustained success for Orlando City SC and the Orlando Pride.”
Both the Wilf and DeVos families are no strangers to controversy. The DeVos family has a long, controversial history due in large part to their involvement with right-wing politics, while the Wilfs were ordered to pay over $100 million (later reduced to $32 million) after they were charged with defrauding in violation of New Jersey’s state racketeering laws in 2013.
The new ownership group also stated they have no intention of making major changes in the front office this season, and will, “[use] the next four to five months as an analysis period,” per the Sentinel.
What It Means for Orlando City and the Pride
What this sale means for the future of Orlando City and the Orlando Pride remains to be seen. This ownership group has very deep pockets and seems committed to elevating the club, but how that will play out is unknown. We’ve seen incredibly wealthy NFL owners ghost their MLS teams and treat them as a minor investment (Stan Kroenke in Colorado), but we’ve also seen others fully commit to the MLS project, most notably Arthur Blank in Atlanta. Based on the Wilfs’ persistence on breaking into MLS, with a failed Minnesota expansion bid and now-resolved minority stake in Nashville SC, my gut leans towards the latter, but only time will tell.
Mark Wilf recorded his message to the club’s fans, which Orlando City posted on social media today: