It cost Malcolm Glazer more than $1 billion to take over Manchester United. Another American, Dmitry Piterman, spent $5 million a year ago to acquire Spanish club Alaves, which he guided to La Liga promotion. Alaves kicked off the 2005-06 season last Saturday by tying defending champion Barcelona, 0-0.
Piterman, a U.S. citizen who considers himself ''Born in Russia, Made in America,'' immigrated to New York from Odessa at age 15 in 1979. While a track & field star at UC Berkeley he began accumulating a fortune in San Francisco area real estate. He still maintains a residence in Oakland, Calif.
Interview by Mike Woitalla, Executive Editor
SOCCER AMERICA: You're the club president, but I understand you also run practices ...
DMITRY PITERMAN:I'm president and manager. I train the team everyday. I give pre-game and halftime talks.
I compare it to any normal company with a CEO and high executives. I wouldn't imagine that at Microsoft Bill Gates doesn't meet with the 20 most important brains of his company. The 20-25 players on a team are high executives who get a tremendous amount of money. A lot of times in European soccer the president only says hello to the players and writes the checks.
Most presidents in Spain handle things in a very amateur way. Or if not amateur, then hierarchical - president, vice president, sports director, first coach, second coach, third coach ... The higher the pyramid, the less stable it is -- especially in soccer, where everyone has his own likes and dislikes, his own tastes, his own system of playing.
SA: What's Alaves' goal this season?
DP: To win La Liga. I always try to set maximum goals. I don't think it's impossible. Three years ago, Real Sociedad, a club about the same size as Alaves, finished second to Real Madrid [by two points] on the last day of the season.
You need luck and hard work. They say luck is proportional to the amount of sweat you're willing to put into any given project.
After I bought the club, I signed 12 new players a month before the season. I got them together, got them adapted. I got them to understand the sport concept of the club and the business philosophy that I have. And we won promotion to La Liga.
SA: Have you considered getting involved with American soccer?
DP: I will do something in the United States. We have a few things I'm working on right now. I can't make them public yet. I would like to have some kind of cooperation between Spain and the U.S.