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Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake founder Dave Checketts says good bye to the organization he created after announcing that he had sold his shares to part owner Dell Loy Hansen, left, during a press conference at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013.

SANDY — Real Salt Lake founders Dave and Deb Checketts announced Thursday that they have sold their majority stake in the Major League Soccer team they brought to Utah to Dell Loy Hansen, a local businessman who had previously been the club's minority owner.

The announcement, made in a press conference at Rio Tinto Stadium in the shadow of the 2009 MLS Cup, gives Hansen sole ownership of the team he invested in just days before the team won that league championship in November 2009.

“Dave is someone who dares to dream the impossible dream,” Hansen said. “I never would have thought this was possible.”

Hansen is the president of Wasatch Property Management, a company that owns private and commercial real estate throughout the Western United States. RSL's new owner said he is proud of what Real Salt Lake has accomplished and says he is looking forward to continuing to grow the small-market team.

“I have always referred to Real as the Green Bay Packers of soccer,” he said. “We are such a small market and yet lead the league in consecutive playoff appearances (with five). Dave had a vision that was ahead of its time.”

Checketts says he will now dedicate more of his time to his role as chairman and CEO of Legends Hospitality Management, a merchandising and ticketing company that was founded by the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Goldman Sachs and CIC Partners.

“Eight years ago, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to create something of meaning for my hometown and state,” Checketts said. “Looking back, I believe we have achieved something great.”

Hansen stated that a primary reason for wanting to be part of the Real Salt Lake organization was the positive message it spreads throughout the nation.

“When you take this small market, the little David that could, and you go up and down the West Coast and beat those franchises, that goes in the local paper," Hansen said. “With the governor making Utah the most business-friendly state in America, I guarantee you Real Salt Lake and the Utah Jazz have had a part in that.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert echoed that sentiment: "Halfway around the world, people are looking at us through the eyes of sports," he said.

Sandy mayor Tom Dolan and Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garner were also in attendance to speak Thursday.

Garner said his decision to meet with Checketts about expanding Major League Soccer into Utah "launched this league to be able to be where it is today.

“This is a team that is admired around the world," Garber said. "It has had remarkable achievements. Everyone in Major League Soccer is very proud.”

The change in leadership ignited reaction from fans of Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer. For his part, Hansen is looking forward to stepping into his new role.

“Dave is an impossible act to follow," he said. "This has been a real challenge to get through the last three years, but it has been worth it."

Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.