The Chicago Red Stars officially have a new ownership group on Friday. Laura Ricketts led an investment group to purchase the National Women’s Soccer League club, pending approval from the NWSL Board of Governors. The group will now take over the franchise after it was put up for sale by former majority owner Arnim Whistler.
The final deal totaled $60 million at close, setting a record for an existing franchise with $35.5 million toward the sale and $25.5 million toward immediate investment in the team. The deal was a months-long process for Ricketts, that included cultivating an investor team with several businesswomen and civic leaders with deep ties to Chicago. The journey to purchasing the Red Stars meant finding investors with similar visions and ideals to pursue ownership of the club.
Red Stars players penned a letter during the 2022 NWSL season, after the systemic abuse cited throughout former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’ report on the NWSL, calling on the club board of directors to remove Whisler. The team was initially put up for sale by Whisler after the club was implicated in multiple national reports and investigations regarding widespread abuse and misconduct across women’s professional soccer in the United States
“Last fall when we saw the events with the players, the letter that they had written, the actions of the board, the exit of Armin — that’s what started kind of sparking ‘hey, this team is going to need to be sold.’ It was just thinking through how much that makes sense for me, given the experience and the expertise that we can bring to professional management and ownership of this team.
It was very important to me that this be a female-led group and investment group. That it be a diverse female lead investment group, because it’s women’s sports and because I think the investors ultimately need to reflect the team and as well as the community.”
Ricketts is of the understanding that under new ownership, there will be a period in which they “clean house” but she and the new ownership groups’ first priority is hearing from current players on the roster.
“They deserve more, and they’re gonna get it. They’re gonna get it under this ownership group. Our very first meeting will be with the players and introduce ourselves, tell them what we’re about. Why we bought this team, why we’re interested in it. I think that’ll be a fairly brief introduction. The most important thing is I want to hear them. I want to listen to them, and I want to build a relationship with them. A relationship of trust and respect and those things take time, and I want to get started on it right away.”
“On behalf of the NWS Board of Governors, we’re thrilled to welcome Laura and the entire new ownership group to our league,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman in a statement. “These talented and accomplished owners, successful in business, sports, and leaders in the Chicago community, are committed to investing the resources necessary to take the Chicago Red Stars to the next level and enable the NWSL to continue our collective growth. A new chapter for this team begins today.”