The Portland Thorns were sold to the Bhathal family for a record $63M
The GIST: After weeks of exclusive talks, the Portland Thorns were sold to the Bhathal family for $63M yesterday. The sale marks a record price for an NWSL team — it’s higher than the $53M expansion fee for Bay FC and Boston and nearly double the $35.5M sale of the Chicago Red Stars last August. Coming up roses.
The ownership: The Thorns will be co-managed by Lisa Bhathal Merage and her brother, Alex Bhathal. Bhathal Merage will serve as controlling owner and primary governor, while Bhathal will be the club’s alternate governor. The Bhathals also secured a lease for the Thorns to stay at Providence Park through 2035, a stadium owned by MLS’ Portland Timbers.
- The Bhathal family has already seen sports ownership success as principal co-owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, which has exploded in value from $525M to $3.33B since the family’s 2013 purchase.
The trend: Women’s soccer is ready to offer instant ROI — just look at Angel City’s $180M valuation and the NWSL’s valuation-to-revenue ratio — and savvy business people are taking note. The Bhathal siblings join a line of visionaries like Alexis Ohanian and Michele Kang, both of whom transformed their respective fields and apply that forward-thinking mentality to the pitch.
- Plus, with the ink barely dry on the contract, the Bhathals have already committed to supporting the construction of a women’s soccer–specific training facility in Portland. This follows the precedent set by Kansas City’s franchise, which gives a whole new meaning to staying current.
Zooming out: Although the Thorns actually sold slightly below its $65M valuation from last October, the sale still represents massive growth for women’s soccer. People may have questioned Michele Kang’s $35M Spirit purchase last May in a league that previously wielded a $2M expansion fee, but a lot can clearly change in a year. Buy in while you still can.