by Neil Morris
On Dec. 30, 2010, current majority owner Selby Wellman filed two Articles of Dissolution with the N.C. Secretary of State that make clear a major reorganization is under way.
Last month, team president Brian Wellman confirmed online reports that current team owners were seeking to divest their stake in the club, and that Traffic Sports USA, the American subsidiary of a Brazilian sports management company, will likely acquire majority ownership.
One filing dissolves Triangle Professional Sports, L.L.C., aka Triangle Professional Soccer, L.L.C., a sport management company formed in 2005 by founding managing member Chris Economides. According to the Triangle Professional Sports’ 2010 Annual Report, the RailHawks’ members/owners were Wellman, Atlanta Silverbacks Holdings, L.L.C. (the corporate front for original minority owner Boris Jerkunica), HTCFC, Inc. (HTC standing for Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Canadian Football League franchise owned by Red Hat founder Bob Young), and Singh Holdings, L.L.C. (managed by Dr. Paul Singh, a Cary physician).
The second Article dissolves Carolina Railhawks, L.L.C., organized in August 2006 by original members Economides, Selby Wellman and Brian Wellman and later managed under the auspices of Triangle Professional Sports.
A search of the N.C. Secretary of State’s website does not yet reveal any organizational filings identifying the RailHawks’ new ownership group.
In response to an e-mail query from Triangle Offense, Brian Wellman declined to comment immediately about specifics, citing confidentiality requirements. He did indicate that the sale of ownership should be finalized by the end of next week.
These new filings do not necessarily mean that one or more of the RailHawks’ current owners will not continue to be associated with the club in some capacity. However, they strongly suggest a massive organizational shift, particularly since the club’s corporate persona did not dissolve or change even when Selby Wellman acquired controlling interest from Economides several years ago.
Although the full ramifications of these filings remain to be seen, they seem to herald a resolution to the RailHawks' effort to locate fresh investment in the team. Last July, the ownership group announced a search for up to $1 million in new investment. At that time, Triangle Offense interviewed Wellman:
Asked what the team will do if it can’t find a new investor, Wellman replied, “Bob [Young] and I will keep plugging along. We have a strong belief in professional soccer and where professional soccer is going in America. We think we can make a go of it in this area.”
Also departing is midfielder Daniel Paladini, who in two seasons with the RailHawks was twice selected to the League’s best 11 and honored as the team’s MVP in 2009. Paladini, a locker room leader as well as a favorite among fans and the media, will ply his trade with the Chicago Fire.
There are also reports that Amir Lowery, Josh Gardner and Brad Rusin have trialed with various MLS clubs during the off-season. The increased interest in D-2 players comes as a partial consequence of the need to fill team rosters during a time of MLS expansion, including the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps’ jump to first-division soccer this year.
However, it is a testament to the RailHawks’ system of player selection and development that at least three players have migrated to MLS. By comparison, only five members of last season’s D-2 Whitecaps squad have been chosen thus far for the club’s own MLS expansion roster.
That said, it is commonplace for players signed with MLS to be released by their club during training camp or even during the season. The RailHawks’ roster is littered with players with varying degrees of MLS experience. Woolard himself spent 2007-2009 with the Fire before being released. Cory Elenio was a member of the Crew when he was transferred to the RailHawks midway through last season.
So, while we commend and wish the best to all three signings, it is not inconceivable that we may see one or more of them in a RailHawks’ kit again someday.