Article written by Mike Faulk and posted on STLToday.com. For original article, click HERE.
The ownership group hoping to bring Major League Soccer to St. Louis has its roots in smoothies rather than sports.
And the SC STL investors may not have found their chairman, former Bain Capital managing director Paul Edgerley, if not for a Boston Celtics game the day after the Rams of the National Football League started packing for Los Angeles.
Edgerley, a part owner of the Celtics, had former Anheuser-Busch president Dave Peacock in town to watch the Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 13.
“At the time, the Rams leaving was the biggest story in sports,” Edgerley said in an interview Tuesday in Clayton. “So we were all talking about it, and Dave mentioned his interest in bringing an MLS team to St. Louis.”
Peacock was courting MLS Commissioner Don Garber in 2015 as well as Edgerley, but he had Edgerley in mind for a different endeavor. Before they partnered on a $200 million soccer stadium proposal for St. Louis, Edgerley and Peacock were investing in food service.
Peacock and Edgerley first partnered on purchasing 73 Jamba Juice businesses in northern California last year. The franchisee Vitaligent is led by Peacock, Edgerley and former Kansas-based Tortoise Capital Advisors managing director Terry Matlack.
Matlack and Edgerley were classmates at Kansas State University in the 1970s. They were introduced to Peacock, who was looking for Vitaligent investors, after he called a mutual friend: Jonathan Kraft, owner of the New England Revolution soccer team and son of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“Jonathan said, ‘Paul just got off the phone with me asking about you,’” Peacock said.
St. Louis sports leaders have wanted a Major League Soccer franchise for years. Peacock said he had Garber out to dinner in St. Louis in 2006 and broached the question then, but it was the possibility of the Rams leaving that really put things in motion.
Edgerley said he followed up in the weeks after the basketball game with Kraft and other Major League Soccer owners and investors. He has 5 percent ownership stakes in the Celtics and the Italian professional soccer club AS Roma, but had never branched out into potentially being a majority team owner until SC STL approached him.
“In some ways it was more happenstance that I got excited in this opportunity,” Edgerley said. “I like the St. Louis market, I’ve got a new business venture with my friend Terry Matlack in Kansas City, so it was more about those things than me really setting out to be a majority investor.”
Kansas City roots
Edgerley has lived in Boston for more than 30 years, but he was born in Columbus, Ohio, and grew up in Kansas City. Edgerley said he got his first name in part thanks to his father’s love of the Ohio State Buckeyes college football team and the Cleveland Browns professional football team, both formerly coached by Paul Brown.
Edgerley’s father sold cars for Van Chevrolet in Kansas City, and his mom worked at a local department store chain called the Jones Store. His future classmate and business partner Matlack grew up in a blue-collar family outside Wichita, Kan.
“We did not come from a background of privilege, and I just sensed we were always very similar,” said Matlack, who with Edgerley graduated with a degree in business in 1978.
Matlack was elected student body president at Kansas State and named Edgerley his “attorney general.” Matlack said the two could more often be found in an office obsessing over student government late at night than with other friends at bars.
“Even as a young man, he was just very dedicated and committed to whatever it was at the time we believed was important,” Matlack said. “Both our careers went into finance, and we just enjoyed keeping in touch.”
They have four children, one of whom now works at Bain, and they have been married for 27 years. “I married above me,” Edgerley said.
Paul wasn’t the only Edgerley child who went to the Northeast to make a name for himself. His sister Susan Edgerley spent more than a decade in various editorial roles at The New York Times from 2003 until September of this year, when she left as editor of the weekly Food section.
Over time, Edgerley has stayed close to his roots. He retired from Bain in early January, days before he took Peacock to that Celtics game. Edgerley and Matlack began a new investment firm in Kansas City named VantEdge. The company’s chief financial officer is Paul Billington, a kindergarten classmate of Edgerley’s.
“He’s still in touch with a lot of the kids he went to high school with,” Matlack said. “One of his strengths is his ability to stay connected with people. In my case, he was very good at making sure that happened.”
Edgerley and Matlack also own 25 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in Tennessee and soon in Alabama.
In 2013, Edgerley and his wife gave $10 million to the construction of a 140,000-square-foot business school building at Kansas State University and paid to endow the office of the dean at the College of Business Administration. According to the Boston Globe in 2015, they donated between $100,000 and $499,000 to the city of Boston’s bid to host the Olympics in 2024.
Edgerley said he’s getting a crash course in St. Louis politics, but he understands the apprehension some have at working with a sports ownership group after the Rams’ unfriendly departure.
“We have people who are trying to do the right things to put the facts on the table and hopefully get the support we need,” Edgerley said. “The public is going to get a chance to decide whether it’s something they want to do or not.”
For private investors, Edgerley said the team and stadium would result in “break even” costs and profits for the first decade. He said public financing of the $200 million stadium, which would amount to more than 60 percent under the current proposal, is “the only way the numbers make sense” for investors.
If you look at this over a five- or 10-year investment, you’ll make nothing,” Edgerley said. “Over 20 years, you can make an OK return, that’s my hypothesis.”
Edgerley said there can be “a good debate” over the stadium cost, but the ownership group expects it to fall between $180 million and $210 million.
Edgerley said he realizes a successful public-private partnership with St. Louis and the MLS hinges on fielding a team that can be successful. If St. Louis gets a stadium and a team, it may not take the field until 2020 or 2021.
“Having a team that’s exciting, competitive, gives back to the city, is a valuable thing,” he said. “I think sports do matter. It really does bring communities together and builds economic development. All these things I think people still underestimate.”