HomeFootballPortland Thorns sold for $63m in landmark acquisition by Bhathal family

Portland Thorns sold for $63m in landmark acquisition by Bhathal family

Portland Thorns sold for $63m in landmark acquisition by Bhathal family

In an extraordinary National Women’s Soccer League ownership deal, the Portland Thorns have fetched a historic price of USD$63 million – setting a new record for the acquisition of a NWSL club.

Prominent business figures Lisa Bhathal Merage and her brother, Alex Bhathal, are set to acquire ownership of the Thorns from Merritt Paulson, who has been at the helm of the women’s team since its NWSL inception in 2013.

Paulson will retain ownership of the Portland Timbers, who he founded for their entry into Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2011. The Bhathal family, also holding a minority stake in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and the Sacramento River Cats (the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants), operates RAJ Capital, formed in 2016 after the family’s sale of its swimwear business. The Thorns will now be under the umbrella of RAJ Sports.

Paulson’s decision to sell to the Thorns came in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct by a former coach at the club in December 2022. With a Forbes valuation of $650 million for the Timbers, Paulson’s commitment to parting ways with the Thorns has paved the way for a new era under the Bhathal ownership.

The Thorns are a powerhouse in women’s soccer, entering the NWSL in 2012 and winning the most recent of their three championships in 2022. The club will continue to call Providence Park home, sharing the venue with the Timbers. Additionally, the Bhathals have pledged their support for the construction of a dedicated women’s soccer training facility in Portland.

Underlining the continued growth of the NWSL, the previous record for acquisitions stood at $53 million, paid by incoming ownership groups for expansion franchises in Boston and the Bay Area slated to debut in 2024. The Chicago Red Stars were sold for $35.5 million in September.

Further expansion is on the horizon for 2026, with locations yet to be determined and franchise fees yet to be disclosed.

In the wider landscape of women’s professional sports facilities, the NWSL’s Kansas City Current, who unveiled an $18 million training facility in 2022, are poised to inaugurate a new stadium in March 2024 – a pioneering venture as the first purpose-built stadium in the U.S. specifically for women’s professional sports.


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