Jay Sugarman: ‘A Lot of Factors' in Releasing CEO Nick Sakiewicz

In a "state of the organization" conference call on Friday, Union chairman and majority owner, Jay Sugarman, addressed his club's break with polarizing CEO and operating partner, Nick Sakiewicz.

"This was a complicated decision," the owner said. "There were a lot of factors. We looked at the body of work, the judgements and the decision making. There have been some really good things and things that aren't up to the standard we like."

Sugarman stated that Sakiewicz wasn't fired, but released from an "employment agreement" with the Union ownership group Keystone Sports & Entertainment, LLC, established when the team was founded.

"When his employment agreement ended last year, we really needed to take a step back and decide how we were going to move the ball forward," Sugarman said. "There were some issues that just didn't seem to be getting resolved. This is not a decision that was made lightly but I think it's the right decision for the team to move forward."

According to Sugarman, the former CEO still owns "Class B shares" in the team, but that they "probably don't have much value" and that the ownership group will "work those details out." Sakiewicz didn't wield any voting power within the ownership.

Though Sakiewicz played a major part in bringing the Union, and PPL Park, to the area, he became a hot-button issue with fans and media, as the Union missed the playoffs in five of their six seasons and became a laughing stock of MLS, stumbling through coaching switches and a hopeless goalkeeping situation.

"We don't always see eye to eye," Sugarman said. "There were things that are very important to me that weren't important to Nick. From just a perspective of how we were going to run the club and what were the important philosophical underpinnings, it was clear that we weren't necessarily on the same page."

In late May, members of the Union support group, Sons of Ben, carried a makeshift coffin in a protest march to PPL Park with Sakiewicz's name on it.

"The fans are important," Sugarman said. "Their input is important to us and we should keep that in mind. When fans are telling you a message and it's thoughtful and they're asking honest questions, you need to give them honest answers. It's never good when your fans aren't happy. I take that as one of the signals that we've got to do better."

Sakiewicz was seen as the sole force that brought high-priced goalie Rais Mbolhi to Philadelphia - a move widely considered as one of the worst in MLS history, as Mbolhi, costing the frugal Union roughly a half million dollars, played just nine games and earned one win before manager Jim Curtin banished him to Europe.

"There's a lot of great things going on here that have been clouded because we're not winning and because we've handled some things really poorly," Sugarman said. "But that doesn't stop me from believing that this is going to be something we're all going to be proud of."

While Sugarman spent time discussing what got the lowly Union to this point, he also touched on the future and the team's eventual hire of a sporting director, a position that would manage the club's on-field direction.

"We have figured out exactly what we'd like to fill it with, we just haven't been able to hit on it yet," said Sugarman, who also said that Curtin's job is likely safe for next season. "It's time for a change. We're really looking forward to moving forward now."

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