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How three Hispanics helped make Beckham's MLS team possible

It all started at a dinner party at Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's home in LA where soccer-mad Bolivian-American entrepreneur Marcelo Claure was introduced to Beckham's right hand man. But, until recently there was a piece missing; the Miami connection and two well-known Cuban-American businessmen.
30 Ene 2018 – 05:07 PM EST

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Los empresarios Jorge Mas Santos, Marcelo Claure, David Beckham y José Mas Santos en la conferencia donde oficializaron la franquicia de la MLS para Miami. Crédito: Eric Espada/Getty Images

MIAMI, Florida.- It’s official: David Beckham achieved "his dream" of founding a football team in Miami to compete in Major League Soccer (MLS), but he needed some Hispanic help to get there.

On Monday, during the team's launch, the British star was accompanied by his partners in the new franchise. They include Bolivian-American Marcelo Claure who is CEO of the mobile phone giant Sprint, and, two wealthy Cuban-American brothers, Jorge and José Mas Santos, who have their own energy, engineering and construction companny, MasTec.

There was also Beckham's long time friend and British TV empresario, Simon Fuller, founder of the Idol singing competition franchise. And via video Japanese billionaire and Softbank CEO, Masayoshi Son, a partner of Claure.

The newborn franchise, not only has Hispanic capital, but was conceived in 2011 in the home of two of Latin music's icons. "It all started at a dinner party in Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony’s home in Los Angeles," Bolivian-American businessman, Marcelo Claure, told the launch event in MIami on Monday.

"I met a fascinating person, Simon Fuller, who told me that his partner David (Beckham) wanted to build a soccer team in the USA. I told him that I had the same dream and that it should be in Miami," he went on.

Claure came to the U.S. in 1995 and began selling cell phones. Two decades later, the mobile phone service company he founded, Brightstar, was a global enterprise, earning $7 billion a year. By 2011, Claure he was named Hispanic Businessman of the Year by the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And in 2014, Claure became CEO of Sprint.

"Like many of you, I am an immigrant, I come from Bolivia. I love football and I love Miami because this was the city that allowed me to achieve my dreams," said Claure, who also owns a soccer team, Bolivar, in La Paz, Bolivia.

The LA dinner at the home of Marc Anthony and JayLo didn't have immediate effects. It wasn't until two years later, in 2013, that Claure met with Beckham in Miami for the first time. "David's thing with Miami was love at first sight, I don’t know if it was the beautiful people or the Cuban sandwiches but he fell in love," said Claure.

That day, the Bolivian and English promised each other to work together for the shared dream of bringing a top tier team to Miami.

But the project ran into many complications, and it was delayed more than everyone expected. "It has been a challenge, especially to find the right land where we could build the stadium and to put together the right group of partners," said Claure.

The missing piece

Claure revealed that only 60 days ago, they nearly abandoned the dream. "It's over, we gave up, I met with David (Beckham) practically to say goodbye. But during that meeting we both concluded that we could not resign, we had to keep trying," revealed Claure.

He recalled an email he'd had received a few days earlier from the Mas Santos brothers: "We want to talk about football," they told him.

In November, Claure, Beckham and Fuller met in New Jersey with Jorge and José Mas and, according to the Bolivian, it was a magical moment. "We finally found the missing piece, the local partner who knows Miami very well, who could be the complement what we had on the table," he said.

The Mas Santos brothers come from a family deeply rooted in Miami. Both are sons of Jorge Mas Canosa, a Cuban-American politician and businessman, best-known for being a fierce opponent of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Mas Canosa founded the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), a conservative organization created by Cuban exiles in 1981. Nowadays, his son Jorge Mas Santos is in charge of the foundation. As president, Mas has taken a more moderate position on Cuba than his father, notably supporting President Barack Obama's historic policy shift in late 2014.

The Mas Santos brothers stepped in when they learned that Beckham's project was about to fail. "We found out he was in danger, that MLS would not grant them the franchise, so I emailed Claure in order to save it," Mas told Univision News.

Euphoric, Jorge Mas took the microphone during his team’s launch. "Dreams are fulfilled where freedom reigns," he said, expressing a popular Cuban exile mantra.

A cultural mosaic

Jorge Mas focused his speech on what he described as the essence of Miami. "Miami for me is very personal, it starts with the story of my parents, who came here fleeing from tyranny and communism, in search of freedom. And this is not the story exclusively of my family, everyone in this auditorium has a story like that, " he told the audience.

"Miami is a community of dreams of Cuban Americans, Venezuelans, Mexicans, Colombians, Brazilians, Bolivians, Guatemalans, Costa Ricans, Miami is a cultural mosaic," he added.

He said that the team will be a reflection of the diversity of the city. "Just take a look at this group of owners," insisted while pointing to his partners.

The attendees applauded him, chanting: "Miami, Miami, Miami."

Team with no name

The new team is scheduled to start playing in 2020, probably at a temporary site until the permanent stadium is ready by 2021. Hard Rock Stadium, FIU Stadium and Marlins Park were mentioned as possible temporary sites, or even a combination of the three.

The name of the team, the logo and the colors will be decided in the coming months, with the help of fans. At the event there were indications that black and white would be in the color scheme, but the owners said that fans will be invited to suggest ideas in the the coming weeks.

Emilio Estefan, music industry and icon of Miami, has already offered to write a song for the team. And in a video message, Argentine star Leonel Messi, told Beckham he might be calling him in a couple of years.


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