Amidst the usual gameday hype and the Aleksandar Katai news earlier, today may be an important one in Chicago Fire history.
The Chicago Tribune reported today that billionaire Joe Mansueto has purchased a 49% stake in the club. Andrew Hauptman will retain a controlling stake in the Fire and remain club chairman.
In a statement, Hauptman lauded Mansueto as an ideal business partner. “It’s hard to imagine a better partner for me and our club than Joe. In addition to decades of experience as a respected business builder and leader, Joe brings a passion for soccer and cares deeply about the city of Chicago.”
Mansueto, born in Munster, Indiana, in 1956, is the chairman and former CEO of local investment firm Morningstar, Inc. He has undergraduate and graduate degrees in business administration from the University Of Chicago. His firm was most recently behind the $255 million sale of the Wrigley Building. In 2010 Mansueto became the only Chicago-area billionaire to sign on to Warren Buffet’s pledge to give away half their wealth.
The Mansueto buy-in represents the first new investment in the club since Hauptman purchased it from AEG in 2007.
There are, of course, some interesting questions surrounding this new development. Why did Andrew Hauptman decide to sell some of his interest in the club now? Why Mansueto, specifically? Will the infusion of outside investment lead to better signings? How will this effect the day-to-day operations at Bridgeview? Was this entirely Hauptman’s decision, or was there some pressure from the league? How does this relate to the forthcoming USL expansion team? Is Hauptman hedging his bets ahead of the USL team’s launch in 2021?
However you might feel about Andrew Hauptman’s tenure as investor/operator, this is huge news for the club and the fans. Whether or not it’s good news remains to be seen. Either way, this feels like the start of a new chapter in the club’s history.