Mexico tycoons widen U.S. sports reach with Padres, Chivas USA deals

Chivas usa fans gary friedman

MEXICO CITY -- A cousin of the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, has become a part owner of the San Diego Padres, and a married couple who are Mexican millionaires have taken control of Chivas USA, a Major League Soccer team.

The deals, announced in separate reports Wednesday, widen the reach of Mexico's hyper-wealthy in the high-stakes world of professional sports in Southern California.

Alfredo Harp Helu, a billionaire banker and Slim's cousin, appeared Wednesday on a list of eight new part-owners of slightly less than half of San Diego's Major League Baseball team.

The sale was reported to be worth $800 million during negotiations, but details on the final purchase price paid by members of the team's new minority group of owners were not revealed. Harp's wealth is estimated at $1 billion.

From its Carson-based clubhouse, meanwhile, Chivas USA announced that Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes, the founder and chief executive, respectively, of the Omnilife nutritional supplements company have acquired the second half of the squad's ownership from partners, becoming full owners.

Vergara and Fuentes are already owners of the original Chivas in Guadalajara, the popular First Division team in Mexico's second largest city. The details of the Chivas USA deal were not released.

It's been a good week for Fuentes, one of Mexico's wealthiest women. On Tuesday she was named a chief patron of the newly renovated Rufino Tamayo Museum, which accompanied a minor controversy in Mexico's art world.

Fuentes' name appears prominently in a renovated gallery inside the museum, along with a gallery named in honor of billionaire Carlos Hank Rhon, brother of the scandal-ridden former mayor of Tijuana, Jorge Hank Rhon. Critics bemoaned the presence of the Hank Rhon name inside the museum as a symbol of the increasing privatization of public art institutions in Mexico.

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-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo:  Chivas USA fans gather for opening day at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., in 2005. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times 


Ex-Murdoch media legal executive arrested in British hacking case

LONDON -- Police have arrested Tom Crone, a former legal executive in the Murdoch-owned News International group, the latest to be apprehended in connection with ongoing investigations into illegal phone hacking. 

In a brief statement, Scotland Yard announced the arrest Thursday of a “60-year-old man ... on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications" as part their inquiry “into the hacking of telephone voicemail boxes.”  He was taken for questioning to a London police station.

Crone was a senior member in the legal department of News International, News Corp.’s British media branch, with responsibility for the legal affairs of News of the World.  He quit after revelations in July 2011 that the paper’s reporters had paid private investigators to illegally hack into the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler in 2009, prompting myriad judicial, civil and political inquiries.

Questioned by a panel of lawmakers last year, Crone claimed he was “pretty sure” that in 2008 he had informed James Murdoch, then-News International executive chairman, of suspected widespread phone hacking within News International papers and that it went beyond one or two "rogue reporters" including Clive Goodman, jailed in 2007 for hacking into phones of the British royal family.  James Murdoch subsequently denied being informed of this.  

Crone also said he advised James Murdoch in 2008 to stave off a threatened lawsuit by paying almost a million dollars to soccer executive Gordon Taylor who claimed his phone had been hacked by NI journalists.

In a statement in April, Crone rejected evidence provided by Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. chairman, implying that Crone was responsible for what Murdoch termed a "culture of cover-up" of phone hacking within the company. He called it a "shameful lie."

More than 70 phone- and computer-hacking-related arrests have been made in three different police operations.   Most of those nabbed have been media executives and journalists later released on bail. Eight have been charged with hacking-related offenses, including Andy Coulson, former media advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron, and Rebekah Brooks, former News International executive.

Crone’s arrest comes a day after former London Times writer Patrick Foster, 29, was taken into custody on suspicion of computer hacking, the first journalist to be targeted from the flagship Murdoch daily.

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 -- Janet Stobart


Mexico's first loss to U.S. at home, on a Mexican American's goal

Michael orozco estado azteca ap

MEXICO CITY -- It was a sweet Olympic gold victory for Mexican soccer, yes. But that was last week.

On Wednesday night, Mexico was defeated by the United States in a friendly match at the cavernous  high-altitude Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, 1-0, the first win for the U.S. on Mexican soil in 75 years of a storied and often bitter rivalry.

The only goal of the game came from U.S. defender Michael Orozco Fiscal, 26, a Mexican American native of Orange.

When it happened, in the 79th minute, utter silence seemed to befall the entire Mexican capital for a second or two. The United States had not won a single game at the Azteca, and Mexico had barely lost there against any opponent, in official matches or friendlies.

Watch the game-winning goal here:

Mexico's current sports superstar, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez -- who didn't play for gold in London in the men's soccer final on Saturday -- attempted a few desperate strikes in the final minutes to salvage the game.

But U.S. goalie Tim Howard delivered crucial saves for the Americans, despite being battered with harrasment from the stands, a custom relished by fans at the Azteca. (At least one pesky person Wednesday was distracting the U.S. goalie with the light of a green laser.)

There was surprisingly little bad blood for Orozco in Mexico's media the next morning and among armchair analysts online.

Where could an ardently nationalist fan draw a line on criticism anyway? The U.S. friendly roster is rife with border-blurring athletes, a reflection of the complex historical migration patterns between the  countries, and maybe a little of that free-trade spirit that has defined the binational relationship since 1994.

Edgar Castillo, a defender born in Las Cruces, N.M., has played for both the Mexican and U.S. national teams. Midfielder Joe Corona -- half-Mexican, half-Salvadoran and born in Los Angeles -- plays professionally for Tijuana. And Herculez Gomez, born in L.A. to Mexican American parents, plays in Mexico for Pachuca.

Game-winner Orozco's parents are from the Mexican states of Durango and Queretaro. He was born in Orange County but plays professionally in Mexico for San Luis.

"That's history," he told one news outlet after the game. "It does leave a mark in my heart."

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In Mexico, Olympic gold is a welcome chance to celebrate

-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: U.S. defender Michael Orozco, right, celebrates with teammate Terrence Boyd after scoring during a friendly soccer game against Mexico in Mexico City, Aug. 15, 2012. Credit: Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press


Germany, Greece at it again, with a twist -- it's Euro 2012 soccer

Greek football

BERLIN -- Their leaders are already at odds, their people full of mutual mistrust. Now, Germany and Greece get to duke it out on the playing field.

Friday night’s quarterfinal matchup between the two countries' teams in the Euro 2012 soccer championships has brought an intriguing political tint to a tournament that enthralls Europeans every two years as much as college basketball rivets Americans every March.

Politically, Germany and Greece are engaged in a high-stakes faceoff over the euro debt crisis, with Berlin insisting on severe austerity cuts in exchange for helping to bail out cash-strapped Greece ,and Athens rebelling against such harsh conditions.

Whether the strong mutual antagonism that has resulted spills onto the soccer pitch remains to be seen. But the jokes and acerbic comments are pouring in.

Continue reading »

Racism and political tension tied to Israel's soccer league

Beitar Jerusalem fans
REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- High drama exists in Israel's soccer league for reasons other than goals scored, as political tension and racism sometimes play out on and off the fields.

The Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, most recently owned by Dan Adler and Adam Levine of the U.S., remains closely associated with its fans' far right-wing politics and slurs against opposing players.

The club faces numerous penalties because of fan behavior, with Beitar fans often chanting personal and religious insults at other players. A group dubbed "La Familia" is viewed by many as setting the tone.

“We are against racism and against violence and we pay a price for our fans,” Assad Shaked, a spokesman for the team, recently told the Associated Press.

 Racism, mostly against Arabs, has plagued Israeli soccer for years. But the New Israel Fund organization's "Kick Racism out of Israeli Soccer" program reported last year that racist chanting declined during the 2010-11 season, saying that much of the change was tied to fans booing and silencing those who behaved in a racist fashion.

The overall problem involving Beitar, however, appears far from solved.

Continue reading »

Egypt soccer riot: A play-by-play of the protests

Egyptprotest

Infuriated families and politicians in Egypt charge that the police did little to stop Wednesday's attacks on fans of a Cairo soccer team that left 74 people dead and nearly 400 injured.

The fans, known as the Ultras, have been a political force in Egypt, chanting slogans against the government at recent protests and rallies.

On Thursday, protesters suspicious that the government had a hand in the deaths poured into the streets of Cairo. Here is a play-by-play of the ongoing protests through Twitter updates, news updates and photos. Egypt's ruling military council, reviled by protesters, is often abbreviated as #SCAF:

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: An Egyptian waves a flare as others chant slogans during a protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Thursday. Police fired tear gas at thousands of demonstrators. Credit: Khalil Hamra / Associated Press


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