New Lawsuit Is Another Roadblock For David Beckham's Miami Soccer Stadium
David Beckham has a beautiful family, a legendary career and millions in the bank. But so far, the soccer and fashion star has been having a hard time getting a soccer stadium built — in Miami, of all places, where developers famously get what they want. A new lawsuit has added one more hurdle for him.
It has now been six years since Beckham and his business partners, including "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller and Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure, first announced plans to put a Major League Soccer team in the city. But plans for site after site have fizzled out for various reasons. The most recent plan, to build inland on a city-owned golf course, cleared a hurdle with voters but is now being challenged in court.
Beckham first announced in 2013 that he planned to put an MLS team in Miami. After fits and starts trying to build a new stadium, the plan was almost dead by the end of 2017.
But early last year, new investors — including SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son and MasTec Chairman Jorge Mas, who is a major player in infrastructure and engineering — joined Beckham's group and turned their sights from the 9 acres in Overtown to the 73-acre, city-owned Melreese golf course, which sits inland near the Miami International Airport. There, the developers could build not just a stadium, but a $1B mixed-use complex called Miami Freedom Park.
Rules prohibit officials from negotiating a no-bid contract on city-owned land, so Beckham's group went to the ballot box and asked voters if they would OK an exception to the rule and let the city negotiate with Beckham's group. Voters agreed.
But some citizens hate the idea of public land being turned over for private profit, especially since the Marlins notoriously got billions in public money, while being opaque about their claimed financial troubles, to build their stadium. Coral Gables attorney David Winker decided to challenge the deal.
According to the South Florida Business Journal, "When an individual registers as a lobbyist with the city, the person must disclose the entity being represented and who owns it."
Some 15 people, including Beckham and Claure, who lobbied the city and publicly spoke in favor of the stadium also filed disclosures that they represent Miami Beckham United LLC. But the actual lease of city land would go to a different entity, Freedom Park LLC. It wasn't clear who owned Freedom Park until Winker filed an ethics complaint, which forced the disclosure Jan. 7 that it is owned solely by Mas.
Because the pro-Beckham people hadn't registered as lobbyists for Freedom Park LLC, Winker has now filed against the city of Miami, alleging that officials allowed the soccer group to violate lobbying rules, that the ballot referendum was offered under false pretenses and misled voters, and that it should be declared null and void.
Beckham and the others registered as lobbyists for Freedom Park LLC, but only after Winker filed his ethics complaint, the Daily Business Review reports. Winker has called Beckham's group "the gang of billionaires that can’t shoot straight."
Attorneys for Miami Freedom Park vowed to "mount a vigorous defense and seek sanctions and attorney’s fees" if Winker presses on.
The soccer group hopes play will begin in 2020.