The New York Cosmos have announced that Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso has purchased a majority stake in the struggling NASL club, and will become the club's new chairman.
"Like so many of our fantastic fans, I have followed the Cosmos since the fabulous days of Pele, [Giorgio] Chinaglia, [Carlos] Alberto, and [Franz] Beckenbauer," Commisso said in a press release. "With my deep roots in the New York City area as a former player, youth coach, and proud supporter of the Columbia University soccer program, I look forward to building on the rich history of America's most iconic soccer club."
Late last year, the Cosmos were reported to be on the brink of folding, with some employees furloughed, and player contracts terminated. Commisso's involvement now secures the Cosmos' continued existence in the NASL.
Commisso said on a conference call with reporters that that previous owners Seamus O'Brien and Sela Sports would retain a minority interest in the team. COO Erik Stover and manager Gio Savarese will remain with the club as well.
Commisso said that negotiations began just before the Christmas holiday, and that the deal came together quickly after that. The main sticking point was whether the NASL would retain its status as a Division II league. When U.S. Soccer announced on Jan. 6 that the NASL would retain that designation, the deal was able to finalized.
"I'm going into this situation with my eyes open," Commisso said. "This is not an easy situation from a financial standpoint. Rarely do sports teams make money, and in the case of the Cosmos, it's even worse."
New York Cosmos' Chairman joined by Head Coach and Sporting Director, Giovanni Savarese and Chief Operating Officer, Erik Stover pic.twitter.com/9En9iIB8iX
- New York Cosmos (@NYCosmos) January 10, 2017
Commisso said his first priority would be to rehire and retain many of the employees on the management side of the business along. Commisso added he will make sure that the club's outstanding debts will be paid. That includes paying players and staff who were furloughed, which will be taken care of within the next week.
"Rocco isn't known for screwing anybody," Commisso said. "Rocco doesn't have that reputation and has never had that reputation. The first order of business is to take care of employees who are owed money."
The Cosmos have been playing at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium in Hempstead on Long Island, but Commisso said negotiations were ongoing with Columbia University as well as MCU Park in Brooklyn to move the team into the city. He added that there was a "high probability" that the team would play in the five boroughs.
Columbia's soccer stadium is named after Commisso, and last year he was elected to the university's athletics hall of fame.
As for the team itself, Savarese added that the team would have to be completely rebuilt, saying: "We're not starting from zero, but minus-five."