Gabriel Brener has become the new majority owner of the Houston Dynamo and Dash after buying AEG's full share, it was reported on Tuesday by the Houston Chronicle. Brener is joined by two new faces in purchasing the majority ownership, Ben Guill of Houston (also a minority owner to the Astros) and Jake Silverstein of Portland, Oregon. The three will form a new partnership group along with Oscar De La Hoya, who retains the minority ownership he has held since 2008.
The historic deal marks a new milestone for Major League Soccer as it is the first time that no owner has stakes in multiple franchises. AEG, who had owned the team since their days in San Jose, also owns the LA Galaxy and were expected to inevitably sell after years of vocal pressure from league commissioner Don Garber. Brener, who is based in Los Angeles, joined with De La Hoya in 2008 to purchase a 50% share of the team.
As the news breaks, there are sure to be rejoicing fans who have harbored resentment at the entertainment juggernaut, citing the Galaxy's extraordinary transfer moves as an obstacle to Houston's growth in the Texas market. But despite whether those reasons were founded in truth or not, Dynamo players and staff struggle to agree.
"There is no Houston Dynamo without [AEG]," team president Chris Canetti told Dynamo Theory last year. "You can't compare the Houston Dynamo to the LA Galaxy. You can't. Two different markets, two different situations, two very different businesses."
"Anschutz is a great owner in our league," said Dynamo legend Pat Onstad. "His commitment to the sport and to the players and the league has been second to none. I think we felt, from our standpoint for the players, we had great ownership."
"I have more respect for [AEG owner Phil Anschutz] than pretty much anyone that I've come in contact with that had anything to do with Major League Soccer," said ex-Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson when speaking with Dynamo Theory for our Oral History series.
Even so, the sale of the team felt imminent over the years as the league front office would drop hints that AEG should be looking for a way out of Houston. A close sale in 2012 to Rockets owner Les Alexander felt like the end of Anschutz's stake in the Dynamo, but a business restructuring at AEG forced the group to back out late in the process.
Moving forward, fans might not be sure how to feel about another LA-based businessman taking over the team when they'd prefer local ownership. Those in the know, however, seem to feel as if the team will be in good hands.
"Gabriel comes to games," says Canetti. "I can tell you every single game - whether it's on the road or at home - he and I are texting. He'll text me at the draft - 'Who are ya taking?' He's totally engaged."
"One thing I would say is that Gabriel definitely took a pretty active role being around the players," Onstad agrees. "I remember occasionally getting a text from him congratulating us on a good game or, if things didn't go well, he'd still be positive - 'Hey, don't worry. We'll get 'em next time.'"
With a nice run of offseason transfers already in place for the Dynamo, the team embarks on the 2016 season re-tooled for the pitch and in the owner suites. There is enthusiasm surrounding Gabriel Brener and what he brings to the ownership table but, after two lackluster years, the way fans feel about the new shareholders may be strongly correlated with success on the field next year. That might also mean that Brener's harshest critic could be himself. As Canetti says, "Gabriel Brener is the biggest Dynamo fan there is."