NWSL's Portland Thorns and MLS' Portland Timbers have interested buyers though they are not officially on the market
The GIST: The NWSL’s Portland Thorns and MLS’ Portland Timbers may not officially be on the market, but interested parties are still preparing offers. Two groups are reportedly finalizing bids to acquire the club from owner Merritt Paulson, who remains under pressure to sell following an independent investigation into abuse in women’s soccer.
The first bid: Former Nike exec Melanie Strong headlines a group of female entrepreneurs, mostly from the athletic footwear and apparel industries. The consortium is being advised by Rukaiyah Adams, former chair of the Oregon Investment Council.
- At Nike, Strong led a team of female managers to confront higher-ups about the company’s gender pay gap and boys’ club culture. The company purged more than ten male execs as a result of the group’s efforts.
The second bid: Onward Rose City launched its community-based campaign on Friday, fronted by Elevate Capital executive partner Chris Bright. The (future) nonprofit aims to mirror the NFL’s Green Bay Packers’ ownership model, and has the backing of the club’s supporters’ groups. To join Onward Rose City’s cause, fans must pledge $107.
- Should the group raise enough funds to put in a bid, it would also have to find a workaround to MLS guidelines — the league doesn’t allow the sale of clubs to nonprofits and charities.
The value: A new ownership group will have to pay a pretty penny to oust Paulson. The Thorns-Timbers package is valued at $685 million, making it the eighth most valuable soccer club in the country.
- If the Thorns are sold separately from the Timbers, the price would surpass the $35 million Michele Kang paid to acquire the controlling stake in the Washington Spirit earlier this year.
Zooming out: Questions persist about who or what could force Paulson to sell, especially considering he may escape punishment from MLS’ Board of Governors and that the NWSL’s joint investigation with the Players Association is still ongoing. A worthy bid from a prospective buyer, however, could be the quickest way to shove Paulson out.