Beckham’s $950 Million Man Offers Miami New Stadium Plan

The telecommunications executive backing David Beckham’s bid to return professional soccer to Miami unveiled a new stadium plan and promised to seek voter support for his effort in a November referendum.

Marcelo Claure, the founder and chief executive officer of mobile-phone distributor Brightstar Corp., offered an alternative stadium plan situated along the Biscayne Bay waterfront after an earlier proposal drew opposition from local politicians, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and billionaire car magnate Norman Braman.

“What kills me is that the most dynamic and cosmopolitan city in the U.S. doesn’t have a soccer team,” Claure, a member of Sprint Corp.’s board, said yesterday in Miami. “Now all the stars are aligned.”

Claure, whose 43 percent stake in Brightstar is estimated at $950 million, partnered with Beckham and British entrepreneur Simon Fuller in his latest effort to have a Major League Soccer team playing in Miami by 2017. After local voters soured on a $347.5 million subsidy for a new Miami Marlins baseball stadium that opened in 2012, Claure said the trio supports a public referendum on whether to go forward with the plan.

Their proposal, which moves the stadium from an island adjacent to PortMiami to a renovated arts and cultural district on the mainland, would require filling in a boat slip in Biscayne Bay next to the city’s new arts museum and near the AmericanAirlines Arena where the Miami Heat basketball team plays. That would help turn an existing 19-acre (7.7-hectare) park into 23 acres, including the stadium.

‘Iconic’ Location

“We wanted to build in an iconic place and there’s no more iconic place than museums to the left and an arena to the right,” Claure, 43, said in an interview in a 39th-floor office overlooking downtown Miami.

Beckham, 39, has become a regular visitor to Miami since retiring from soccer last year, ending a 21-year career that included club titles in four countries. He made his professional debut with English club Manchester United in 1992, and went on to play for Real Madrid in Spain, the Los Angeles Galaxy, AC Milan in Italy and France’s Paris Saint-Germain.

Claure built his wealth through Brightstar, which sold a 57 percent stake to Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Corp. for $1.26 billion in October. Brightstar then bought SoftBank’s Commerce and Services division in February, a move Claure said would generate an additional $3 billion in sales for Brightstar. The company had $7 billion in revenue in the year ending June 2013, it said on its website.

Miami Fusion

If backed by voters, the estimated $250 million stadium would be privately funded. Claure said MLS requirements are that the stadium be located downtown, ruling out a home at Sun Life Stadium, where the National Football League’s Dolphins play.

Miami had an MLS franchise for four seasons from 1998-2001. The Fusion, who played at a stadium in Fort Lauderdale, shut down in January 2002 after the team had the lowest revenue in the league, the third-lowest attendance and few corporate sponsorships.

The stadium plan will have to overcome opposition from people who say the proposal will clog downtown streets and encroach on the existing museum park, as well as environmental groups who argue that filling in the boat slip will damage the bay’s ecology.

“Biscayne Bay, despite all the destruction it has endured and ecological resilience it has demonstrated, continues to provide jobs, supply the food we eat and make possible the water-dependent recreation we enjoy,” Laura Reynolds, the executive director of the Tropical Audubon Society, said in a May 9 letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Presidential Fan

A U.S. soccer team would be Claure’s second major investment in the sport. He already owns Bolivia’s top team, Club Bolivar, which he bought in 2008. The club, which counts Bolivian President Evo Morales as a fan, is playing Argentina’s San Lorenzo in the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores tournament in late July.

Claure, who has real estate investments in Bolivia and education investments in Mexico, declined to say whether his personal wealth tops $1 billion.

“I’m happy with the amount of wealth I’ve created for myself,” Claure said. “I like to leave it at that.”