Portland Thorns sells for record $63m to Raj Sports

January 5 – NWSL club Portland Thorns have been sold for $63 million, a record for the acquisition of a women’s club.

Merritt Paulson had put the Portland Thorns up for sale following the sexual harrassment and abuse charges that rocked the NWSL last year and implicated club management following accusations against a former coach.

The new owners of the three times NWSL champions are Lisa Bhathal Merage and her brother, Alex Bhathal, through their Raj Sports investment vehicle. Lisa will serve as controlling owner and NWSL Governor, while Alex will serve as NWSL Alternate Governor.
“This is a milestone day for our family, and for the amazing Portland community,” said Bhathal Merage. “Everything we do centers on positive impact. As fans ourselves, and as seasoned sports and real estate operators, we believe in the future of Portland and the NWSL, and in the tremendous opportunity that surrounds this iconic team.”

The Bhathal family’s sports holdings include the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, Sacramento RiverCats AAA baseball club, Stockton Kings NBA-G League club, and Kings Guard NBA 2K e-sports team.

The Bathals have an expertise in real estate investment and management and have committed to supporting the construction of a women’s soccer-specific training facility in Portland.

“Our vision is to support new, widespread growth for the Thorns, the people of Portland, and for women’s sports as a whole,” continued Bhathal Merage.

“Specifically, we bring deep experience in professional sports and large-scale real estate developments that create thriving community centers, making us well-positioned to deliver valuable assets that will support further growth for the players, staff, and fans.”

Paulson still has ownership interest in football via his Peregrine Sports ownership of Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers, recently valued at $650 million.

“I have immense pride in what the Portland Thorns have meant for not just the NWSL, but all of women’s sports,” said Paulson. “They have been both aspirational and foundational, a cornerstone franchise of the NWSL that helped grow the league to the successful place it is in today… I am delighted to transfer ownership of the Thorns to Lisa Bhathal Merage and her family… Having female-led ownership and a commitment to construct the Thorns a dedicated training facility are tremendous positives.”

The previous record for an NWSL acquisition was $53 million paid for expansion franchises in Boston and the Bay Area that will begin play this year. The Chicago Red Stars sold for $35.5 million last year.

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