The Laura Ricketts-led group finalized its purchase of the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars on Friday. Here’s what you need to know:
- The final bid totaled $60 million, with $35.5 million going toward closing with the previous owners and $25.5 million toward future investment, people briefed on the bid confirmed. The club said the deal was “valued at $60 million.”
- The group reached an agreement to purchase the club in mid-August.
- Ricketts is also a minority owner of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky and a co-owner of the MLB’s Chicago Cubs.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
I spoke to Ricketts and Laura Desmond, one of the ownership group, last week ahead of the closing for the sale of the Red Stars on the massive project ahead (the interview will run next week here at The Athletic). One of the main themes of our conversation was how much work lies ahead for this new ownership group on all fronts, and the relatively short turnaround time until next season.
“We’re going to be attacking it all at once, honestly,” Ricketts said. “We really want to stand this team up and get in a really healthy, thriving place before the next season begins. We’re gonna have to close this deal and really dig in and figure out what has to be done immediately, and prioritize.”
With the sale officially closed, and the promise of “a culture of excellence and accountability” from the new owners, Ricketts and her team can now finally start meeting with the players and other employees to start getting a real, inside understanding of the Red Stars and put out the worst of the fires. It’s a massive project, but Ricketts knows that. That’s maybe one of the best things Red Stars fans could hope for right now, is someone simply walking in the door with clear eyes. — Linehan
The new ownership group
Aside from Ricketts and Desmond, the new ownership group also includes Angela E.L. Barnes, chief legal officer of IDEO; Traci P. Beck, M.D.; Debra Cafaro, chairman and CEO of Ventas, Inc. and partner in the Pittsburgh Penguins; Sidney Dillard, investment banker and partner at Chicago’s Loop Capital; Megan Murphy, owner of LaCrosse Milling Company; Editha Paras, a non-profit executive; Col. Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (retired), founder of the TAWANI Enterprises Inc.; strategic communications consultant Hilary Rosen; Jessica Droste Yagan, partner and CEO of Impact Engine; entrepreneur Tom O’Reilly and the Engelhardt Family.
“Our respective backgrounds in professional sports, finance, turnaround management, commercial real estate, marketing and advertising, paired with our deep community ties, make for a powerful combination that will serve us well in reaching our ultimate goal: building a world-class championship organization on and off the pitch that sets the standard for excellence and accountability,” Ricketts said in a news release.
“I am honored to be a part of this exceptional women-led ownership group for the Chicago Red Stars,” Pritzker added. “I believe that each of the leaders involved will bring a powerful perspective that will both amplify and contribute to the team’s success.”
What else they’re saying
NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said the league’s board of governors is “thrilled to welcome Laura and the entire new ownership group” in a statement Friday.
“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.”
Berman’s optimism about Ricketts’ involvement in the league is mutual.
“We wholeheartedly believe in and are excited about the future of the Red Stars and the NWSL,” Ricketts said. “There is unprecedented fan growth in women’s soccer globally, and we want to be a part of building on that momentum and success here in Chicago.”
Ricketts also said the ownership group will focus on improving player facilities and the fan experience.
“To build the world-class organization that our fans deserve, we need to attract the world’s best players, coaches and staff, as well as create an environment that fosters their success. We’re going to make that happen.”
In December, Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler said he would sell the club following intense criticism from players and fans following the release of the Sally Yates report in early October, which detailed not just the abusive behavior of former Portland Thorns and Red Stars coaches Paul Riley and Rory Dames, but the alleged ways in which Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and Whisler ignored or minimized complaints about the coaches’ behavior.
Red Stars players released a collective statement on Oct. 10, 2022, requesting that Whisler sell the club, writing that they “look forward to finding a new majority owner who can help us realize the full potential that we as players always knew existed for this club.”