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Updated Jul 3, 2024, 1:18am EDT
mediabusiness

Los Angeles soccer team becomes most valuable women’s club at $300 million

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
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The News

Disney CEO Bob Iger and his wife Willow Bay, who is Dean of the USC Annenberg School, are close to purchasing control of Angel City FC, the Los Angeles women’s soccer franchise that is the most valuable women’s sports franchise in the world.

The investment from the Bay-Iger group will be new capital at a pre-money valuation of $250 million, two people with knowledge of the transaction said — an eye-popping number that raises the stakes in women’s sports. One of the people declined to specify the investment but said the team now values itself at more than $300 million, indicating that the new investment is at least $50 million. The couple will replace Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian as the team’s controlling shareholder.

The other person close to the transaction said the investor Marc Lasry and the Manchester United owner Avie Glazer also bid competitively, but Bay and Iger pitched their long-term commitment to the enterprise and building the brand in the long term.

They were also eager to have a woman own the team, and are stressing Bay’s role in the deal. Puck’s Dylan Byers first reported the agreement, and reported that Bay was the buyer. The team’s other shareholders include actors Natalie Portman and Eva Longoria and the soccer stars Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.

Iger and Bay attended the Angel City defeat to the Kansas City team Sunday.

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Big money has poured into sports in recent years, including professional investors. But Jessica Berman, the National Women’s Soccer commissioner, said at a Semafor event last week that while she welcomed Wall Street money — the NWSL was the first professional league to allow institutional investors to own teams outright — she seemed to prefer the simpler model: rich people.

“Knowing that there’s a human we can go to to make decisions, that can bind the capital without having to go to an investment committee or a group of people who need to get approval from investors is really important,” she said, “especially in our league that is so fast growing and we move very quickly.”

Semafor has obtained a pitch deck they circulated, in which they promised to “ignite higher expectations” for the club.

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The Pitch Deck

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Ben’s view

Iger and Bay are a major Los Angeles power couple, and their investment helps signal the club’s centrality to Hollywood and big Los Angeles money. But the biggest news in the deal is the valuation, which a source said all three potential investors were willing to pay.

Now, the sports and leagues courting a wave of investors — women’s soccer and basketball are ascendant, but serious money is also hitting sports as far afield as pickleball — will have to deliver with fans, fill stadiums, and sell television rights.

And woman’s soccer has traction on that front as well: The league last fall closed a deal for broadcast and streaming rights worth $240 million over three years, almost as much as Iger and Bay paid for the team.

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Notable

The Los Angeles Times reported on a “messy” board fight before the team went on sale. “Multiple league and team officials, who would speak only on condition of anonymity given the sensitive nature of the matter, said tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, an early investor, was unhappy over the team’s profligate spending.”

The sports business news organization Sportico estimated the club’s value at $180 million earlier this year.

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