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Mexican Investors Approved as Sockers’ Owners

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ownership of the Sockers went south Friday.

And the Major Soccer League approved.

The MSL awarded a local team to three groups of investors, all of whom hail from Mexico. But as the ownership situation was solidified in the city of the nine-time defending champions, the league extended until the July 29 the deadline for other troubled franchises to to get their finances in order.

The new Sockers’ owners will open the doors at the Sports Arena on Monday, one day after current owner Ron Fowler said he will close them.

Earl Foreman, MSL commissioner, said the new owners have arranged with Fowler to use the name “Sockers.”

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One of the triumvirate’s equal partners will be Oscar Ancira Sr. and his son Oscar Ancira Jr., both of whom live in the county, but are from Monterrey, Mexico. They are the founders of locally based Delimex, a company that specializes in Mexican frozen food. Delimex projects sales of $24 million this year.

The second third is owned by VAMSA, which Foreman described during a conference call with media as the largest investment firm in Mexico.

Last year, according to the group’s application, VAMSA had $330 million in income and an $85 million net profit. It also reported $710 million in net assets. It owns a baseball team in Monterrey, Mexico, and sponsors Formula 3 race cars.

The final third is shared by Alejandro Burillo--the executive vice president of Televisa television network and the grandson of the founder of Televisa--and by Alejandro Bocardo, the president of the Mexican indoor soccer federation. Televisa owns two outdoor soccer teams in Mexico City.

Foreman implied this is the wealthiest group to invest in the sport he invented and brought to the public in 1978.

He said he hopes it will help take the MSL in new directions.

“It’s not necessarily their capital,” Foreman said. “But their contacts.”

For one, Foreman said, the group’s television associates can open avenues to the league that have previously remained blocked. That the owners wield financial clout in Mexico might also bring about “a quick spread of indoor soccer into Mexico,” Foreman said.

There already is talk of expanding to Mexico City.

“The possibilities and the potential are just fabulous,” Foreman said. “From what I’ve learned in the past month, indoor soccer is really beginning to flourish in Mexico and one of the things we talked about was putting a team in Mexico City.”

“Why not?” asked Randy Bernstein, Sockers’ vice president. “It’s closer than Baltimore.”

International expansion, however, will take a back seat to present worries.

The new ownership might play a role in alleviating those as well. Already, they have soothed one headache.

“San Diego is absolutely critical to our league,” Foreman said. “It is our major West Coast town. It was and it is. San Diego is what enables us to say we’re a national league.”

At least, it is in a geographic sense; there are teams on both coasts.

That there are several problems in between does not appear to bother the new Socker owners.

“Hasn’t this league been tenuous for the last three years?” asked Ancira Jr., the owners’ spokesman, in a rhetorical tone, indicating a willingness to work through the troubles.

Many of the difficulties were discussed by the league’s current board of directors during a conference call Friday, the same conference call during which the new Sockers’ ownership was approved.

Other news from the link-up included:

* The league has expanded back into Dallas only months after the Sidekicks folded.

But the new ownership group there might choose to pull out in a month. The group, headed by Rick Weyand and Win Purifoy, has established a deadline of July 29 to sell 4,000 season tickets.

A sports marketing firm is also involved in the group and will handle the season-ticket drive.

“I’m really excited about what they are going to do out there,’ Foreman said. “They have some innovative ideas and it is going to be very stimulating.”

* The announcement that Kansas City is experiencing ownership problems.

Three of the Comets’ investors, each of whom had assumed 10% of the franchise since the end of the MSL season, went AWOL. One of the remaining investors picked up another 10% share, but the franchise is still looking for two replacements willing to invest up to $70,000 per year for three years.

The remaining investors have decided to wait two weeks for additional investors to come forward.

* The St. Louis Storm, too, might be on the ropes.

Majority owner Milan Mandaric, according to Foreman, “has some things to straighten out with his investment group there.”

Mandaric spent last summer demanding more community involvement before he decided to go forward. He appears to be at it again.

* Owners in Tacoma said they are ready to post their $500,000 letter of credit by the July 29 deadline.

But first they want to make sure the community wants the team. To gauge interest, a season-ticket drive was established two weeks ago. So far 1,400 deposits have been collected. The goal is 4,000.

* Perhaps the best news came from Wichita. The Wichita Wings, whose obituary was being written on Wednesday by team President Roy Turner, did what Houdini only said he would do.

They came up with orders for more than 5,000 season tickets--the most in the league by more than a thousand--and met their goal only hours before Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline. The owners said they are ready to post their letter of credit as soon as it is requested.

When the call concluded, the bottom line looked like this: The MSL’s eight existing franchises from the past two years remain intact, and the Pittsburgh Spirit--an expansion team for next year--also remains aboard.

But whether Kansas City is still around in two weeks, whether Dallas and Tacoma are around after July 29, whether St. Louis gets its house straightened out, and--if nothing goes right in those four cities--whether the remaining five teams decide to stick it out, well, not even Foreman could say for sure.

“Let’s put it this way. The letters of credit are not required to be in until July 29. Until I’ve got letters of credit, I’m not going to be guessing at numbers. I’m not going to play that game with you.”

When asked what the minimum number of teams would be for the league to go forward, Foreman said, “I really believe this league will be composed of seven, eight, nine teams. Everybody in the league will go along with seven, eight or nine teams . . . That’s my belief, but I don’t want to contradict anyone in advance.”


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