Columbus Crew owner-operator and chairman Anthony Precourt has a vision for the club, and team president Mark McCullers is not part of it.
The Crew announced Monday that McCullers, a club executive for the past 15 years, will step down. Precourt told him over the weekend that his contract would not be extended.
“As we concluded in the offseason and all the good news that has come to light over the last few months, this is the time now where I’m starting to think about 2015,” Precourt told reporters in a conference call. “If we were to work with Mark to the end of his contract, that wouldn’t put me in position to have hired a new leader when our 2015 business planning was starting.”
There have been plenty of changes in Columbus lately, and Precourt said that the most recent one allows both the organization and McCullers to move on.
“It’s about our future,” Precourt said. “We have a new era, a lot of new opportunity, and Mark’s been at this for over 10 years, which is a lifetime in the sports industry. I don’t think there’s an [executive] in MLS that’s been at his club at that level for that long. Talking to Mark, I think he’s ready for a new chapter in his career as well. In some regards, it was good timing.”
McCullers' last day will be April 30, and Precourt will take over decision-making and day-to-day operations in the meantime. Despite the added workload, Precourt said he's in no hurry to make the decision and that there will be an extensive search process similar to when he hired new head coach Gregg Berhalter to take over for the fired Robert Warzycha.
“I want to do the same thing with finding our next leader,” Precourt said. “[We’ll] take a few months now to thoroughly and thoughtfully identify our next leader and allow that person to step into the organization and have a few months to be assimilated before 2015 business planning begins.”
The move to part ways with McCullers comes just weeks after the team announced a controversial TV deal with Time Warner Sports Channel, a partnership that Crew fans have been vocal in chastising. Precourt said that the deal wasn't instrumental in McCullers's resignation but that he would be working more closely with the issue himself.
“That is something I’m getting more involved in,” he said. “Yes, everyone at the Crew is aware of the reaction to the deal. We’ll have more to come on that subject at a later date.”
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Precourt said he has already spoken to MLS commissioner Don Garber and president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott, spent 10 hours making phone calls Sunday and made it clear that the next president will have a lot of work to do.
“The Crew has a lot of work to do in terms of improving its business operations to support what our primary goal is, which is to be a successful soccer club,” Precourt said. “Obviously, we talked about stadium naming rights opportunities and improving our season-ticket holder base and our corporate partnerships and other things I’d like to see improve with the Crew.”
What are Precourt's requirements for the next president? Even he isn't sure of that just yet.
“I'm open-minded in terms of criteria, and we'll cast a wide net,” he said. “It's like finding a spouse. When you know, you know.”