January 10, 2017
By Michael Lewis
MEET THE NEW BOSS
New Cosmos owner tackles a lot of subjects in conference call, has a lot on his plate
Cosmos' new majority owner Rocco B. Commisso combined his outgoing personality, passion for the game and business acumen as he introduced himself to the team's fans and media Tuesday.
|Rocco B. Commisso: "I am getting into this situation with my eyes wide open. To make the Cosmos a success, we have to invest money and take the losses."
Photo courtesy of Columbia University SID
During an 85-minute conference call that started in late morning and ended in the early afternoon, the cable TV entrepreneur addressed several issues and challenges, ranging from why he decided to purchase the North American Soccer League team, to head coach Giovanni Savarese, Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover, the state of the team, to where the team might play, to when the front office staff and players will receive back wages.
In other words, there is a lot on the table and a lot to get done.
"We have found our savior, a savior for the club," Stover said.
Added Commisso: "I don't go in to fail. I go in to succeed."
"There is a lot of work ahead. We're just going to try our best. We've never gone out and over-promised. It's been the other way around."
Commisso, the owner of Mediacom Corp., the fifth largest cable company in the United States, purchased a majority stake in the two-time defending North American Soccer League champions from Sela Sports and Seamus O'Brien, the club announced Tuesday morning.
The exact financial details of the deal were not immediately known.
"We both had to move fast," Commisso said. "We would have closed this two weeks ago, but there were some issues with the league."
As in the future of the NASL. It needed to be Division 2 status for Commisso to be involved with the Cosmos. On Friday, the U.S. Soccer board of directors gave the NASL and the United Soccer League provisional status for a year. That's when everything came together.
Commisso made it clear that he would not have agreed to the deal had D-2 status had not been there.
"I don't think the league would have survived [if it wasn't for him]," he said.
No one had to remind Commisso there was a lot of things on his plate.
"I am getting into this situation with my eyes wide open," Commisso said. "To make the Cosmos a success, we have to invest money and take the losses."
Among the issues the 67-year-old Commisso addressed:
* Giovanni Savarese will continue as head coach and technical director. "He will have the responsibility of building the staff and the club," Commisso said, calling him "a great coach and technical director."
* Stover will remain as COO.
* The staff and players will be paid.
"Absolutely," he said. "Let's get something clear, Rocco is not known for screwing anybody."
Stover said the back payment issue could be rectified as early as Thursday. "There is plenty of debt that today is going to get resolved," he said.
For example, the Cosmos owe more than $50,000 in back rent to their landlord for their Garden City, N.Y., offices.
"My No. 1 priority is to return most of the people on the management side of the business," Commisso added.
"We're trying to rebuild the staff."
* Commisso will not own OneWorld Sports, which is owned by O'Brien.
"This is not a OneWorld Sports deal," he said. "This is the Cosmos."
* The stadium situation. Because the Cosmos can't play at Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University this season, they are looking into options within the five boroughs.
Commisso said there was a "high probability we will play in the five boroughs."
He said that preliminary discussions have begun with Columbia University. Commisso has extremely strong ties with the Ivy League, earning his bachelor's and master's degrees there. He also has been a long-time benefactor of the Columbia men's soccer program. The soccer stadium is named after him.
There also have been extensive conversations with MCU Park, a minor league baseball stadium in Coney Island, Brooklyn. The Cosmos played two games there in 2015.
"Stay tuned," Commisso said at the end of the conference call. "We might have some other news to lay out there going forward.
"For the fans, thank you for staying so loyal to the Cosmos."