Orange County Blues FC of the United Soccer League (USL) has been sold to L.A-based businessman James Keston, the league announced Thursday.
Keston is the Chief Investment Officer of LARO Properties, an investment company.
“We are thrilled to welcome James Keston to the USL and reaffirm one of our key
tenets of finding local and committed ownership,” USL Chief Executive Officer Alec Papadakis said. “James is part of an established Los Angeles family who has passion for soccer and has some very exciting initiatives planned for the team.”
Previous owner Ali Mansouri will remain as a minority investor. Mansouri founded the club in 1998 and became owner in 2010.
“This is a realization of a lifelong dream,” Keston said by phone. “I have a number of plans, starting with a compete rebranding and we will be seeking fan input, a redesign of the logo and improving stadium requirements.”
The OC Blues have played their home games at Anteater Stadium on the campus of UC Irvine since 2014.
“We want to have a fan and game experience that’s greatly enhanced and make the fans feel part of their local team,” Keston said. “The current owner has done a great job and has taken the team to a certain point.
“Our plan is to build out the rest of the team staff, double or triple the front office staff, bring in more sales and marketing and make sure every one knows that Orange County has a local team. The amount of kids and fans playing in Orange County is unparallel to anywhere and we want to be the one team that’s speaking for Orange County.”
All of this work begins once the season is over. The Blues are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference. Last year, the club reached the Western Conference semifinals.
Keston said there are plans to develop an academy system to identify the top talent in Orange County.
“Our focus is winning USL championships and creating a professional environment and give an opportunity to the talented youth to play soccer with men and develop their game,” Keston said. “We understand our place within the (soccer) chain. We’re going to take a look at everything and make a lot of important decisions.”
LARO Properties specializes in investments in real estate, private equity funds, hedge funds, direct equity investments and publicly traded securities. Keston has also served as Chief Restructuring Officer for Larwin Company, during which he led negotiations with banks and creditors on behalf of the company in successfully resolving a distressed portfolio of over $150 million in outstanding loans.