Given his background in the power industry, it’s fair to say Ted Segal knows a thing or two about generating electricity.
And you could feel the energy in the room dial up a notch or two when the new majority owner and chairman of Houston Dynamo FC laid out his aspirations - and then backed up the statements of intent with some immediate actions.
Segal revealed a three-year contract extension for defensive rock Tim Parker, the signing of defender Teenage Hadebe from top-division Turkish side Yeni Malatyaspor as a Designated Player and the appointment of former Houston Texans and Columbus Crew president Jamey Rootes as chief executive officer.
He also pledged six-figure contributions to Dynamo Charities, the Houston Food Bank, a fund for grassroots youth programs and Houston’s 2026 World Cup bid, which he will join as a committee member.
All in all, a notable first day’s work. “Everything we do will be with the goals of building a championship club and fostering ties to the community,” he said at BBVA Stadium before an audience including Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and Dynamo greats Brian Ching, Bobby Boswell and Eddie Robinson, with NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird and her MLS counterpart Don Garber also on hand.
It was announced on Tuesday that Segal has acquired control of MLS’s Dynamo, the Dash of the NWSL and the leasing rights to BBVA Stadium. He’s the third majority owner in the sixteen-year history of the two-time MLS Cup champions, following Anschutz Entertainment Group and the businessman Gabriel Brener. The latter retains a minority stake, as do Oscar De La Hoya, Ben Guill and James Harden.
With 27 teams (Austin making it three in Texas) and more on the horizon as the league continues to expand, it’s a more crowded and more demanding MLS landscape compared with the early years. It’s much-altered even from 2015, when Brener assumed majority control.
Segal’s core tasks: continue the Dash’s progress, make the Dynamo perennial MLS contenders once again and deepen the city’s ties to its professional soccer teams. “He really wants to understand the process, the intricacies of the league. He’s jumped right into it, which has been wonderful,” said Senior Vice President and General Manager Matt Jordan.
Segal says he is “relatively unknown” and has plenty to learn. “I’m going to take an understated but active approach,” he said. “You defer to the experts and work with them and collaborate with them to best put yourself in a position to achieve.”
He is founder and president of New York-based EJS, which develops and finances real estate, and has backed sports ventures including a mixed martial arts competition, the Professional Fighters League.
He was previously an associate at the law firm Latham & Watkins and a vice president at the infrastructure development, investment and operating company LS Power, working in mergers, acquisitions and project development in the American energy sector.
The on-field foundations look solid. Driven by English star Rachel Daly, the Dash won the NWSL Challenge Cup last July. While early in Tab Ramos’s second season as head coach, signs are that the Dynamo are trending upwards after a tough 2020.
Maxi Urruti is providing pop in front of goal and Memo Rodriguez, just named to the USMNT’s provisional CONCACAF Gold Cup roster, is a livewire in the final third. Hadebe, 25, is a Zimbabwean international who figures to add speed and aerial strength to the back line.
Segal was raised in New Jersey by parents who immigrated from the Soviet Union with $100 in 1978. “I’ve been a soccer fan all my life,” he said. The 38-year-old was not yet a teenager when the US hosted the 1994 World Cup - an event that made a profound impression on him and turbocharged the trajectory of the sport here, with MLS beginning play in 1996. “I witnessed soccer’s explosion in popularity in the wake of that World Cup,” he said.
The man who watched USA ‘94 as a young fan is now poised to play an important role in the quest for host city status when the tournament returns to North America in five years’ time. A decision is expected at the end of this year and if it goes in Houston’s favor the city will show off its soccer credentials to the world.
As for domestic growth, the Dynamo, Garber said, have great potential: a stadium with “probably the best location in all of Major League Soccer” and a passionate fanbase. “What needs to happen now is how you connect all those dots.”
The acquisition by someone who grew up with MLS also has symbolic significance to Garber. “He represents a new generation of our fans. Our average fan is about 38 years old and now those 38-year-olds are in a position to be owners. It’s exciting, it’s fun for me,” he said.
Segal also stressed the importance of the Dash, especially as a father of two young daughters in a family that was glued to the action during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. “Part of what drew me to this opportunity is that there is an NWSL team here,” he said.
“I spent some time on the phone with him and understood his vision for the community,” Baird said. “We look for owners that fundamentally have in their DNA to treat the women's team the same as the men's team. And I can assure you, he will.”
The Segal era kicks off on the pitch on Wednesday as the Dynamo host the Portland Timbers. “Houston is a world-class city that deserves world-class teams,” he said. “Let’s Hold It Down, and get to work!”