2:25 pm June 18, 2009, by Henry Unger
Atlanta entrepreneur Fitz Johnson knows there are wiser financial moves to make than investing $2.5 million in a women’s pro soccer team.
After all, the last such Atlanta team, along with its entire league, went bust.
But Johnson, armed with money he made when he sold his defense contracting business last year, believes young women, including his twin daughters, need pro sports to broaden their horizons.
“I coached my girls,” he said. “I love this game. … It builds leadership strength. … It reaches all the way down their core.”
So the 45-year-old from Marietta announced today that he would be the new owner of the Atlanta Beat — the ninth franchise in the fledgling Women’s Professional Soccer league.
He paid $1 million for the expansion franchise, which will begin play next year. And with another $1.5 million in initial costs, including for 18 players, Johnson knows it will be a challenge to make money.
A recession is not the best environment to launch any business, let alone compete in the pro sports arena with plenty of competition for attention and dollars.
He said the new league’s business model, which seeks to control costs, can increase the chances of success. Players make an average of $31,000 for the 20-game regular and two-game exhibition season.
The former CEO of defense contractor Eagle Group International knows it’s an uphill battle.
“We’re going to take some risk here,” he said. But also believes if the team can draw between 5,000 and 6,000 fans for each of the 10 home games, and he gains some sponsors, he may be able to turn a profit after three years.
As a reporter who’s covered many sports business stories through the years, I can say that I’m skeptical. But as a former youth soccer coach, I also can say I understand why he’s trying to make a difference in this way.
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