The record-setting sale sets a new threshold for the NWSL, bringing an experienced new ownerhsip group to the City of Roses.
Portland Thorns FC has been acquired by Bhathal family-owned RAJ Sports the NWSL team confirmed Wednesday. Although financial terms were not disclosed in the official announcement, a person familiar with the deal tells The Athletic that the acquisition totaled $63 million, making it the largest in the league’s history.
RAJ Sports is led by brother-sister team Lisa Bhathal Merage and Alex Bhathal. The two co-founded and serve as partners of the Southern California-based investment firm Revitate. Bhathal Merage will assume roles as controlling owner and NWSL Governor, while Bhathal will serve as NWSL Alternate Governor. It marks the latest major investment in U.S. sports for RAJ Sports, which joined the Sacramento Kings’ ownership group in 2013. They also hold a stake in the NBA G-League’s Stockton Kings and Triple-A baseball team, the Sacramento RiverCats.
The Bhathal family sees the purchase as a multi-faceted one. They plan on providing the club with resources to create a best-in-class playing experience for its athletes with facility developments and more.
“Our vision is to support new, widespread growth for the Thorns, the people of Portland, and for women’s sports as a whole,” said 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.”
When Boardroom caught up with Thorns FC forward Sophia Smith in November 2023, the 2022 NWSL champion said she hopes the new owners continue to show a vested interest and investment in the club and women’s sports as a whole. “What we want in new ownership is someone who’s going to come in and raise the standard even higher so that Portland remains at the top in every category possible. Whether that’s investing in a facility for us, getting a grass training field, all of those things are super important for us,” Smith continued.
Smith has a point, and there is some evidence to prove women’s sports will experience a record-breaking year in 2024. According to a November 2023 release by Deloitte, women’s sports is expected to generate worldwide revenues of $1.28 billion this year. If this prediction comes true, it will mark the first time that annual global profits for women’s sports will have surpassed $1 billion and a total of at least 300% higher than Deloitte’s previous valuation entering 2021.
Additionally, the $63 million price tag marks the biggest club sale in NWSL history. In 2023, the league’s Bay Area and Boston expansion clubs each sold for $53 million, which set the previous records.
The Bhathal family plans to keep Thorns FC in Portland, where they will continue to play at Providence Park, the downtown stadium that also hosts the MLS side Portland Timbers. The family will take over soccer operations, effective immediately.
Want More NWSL?
Betting on the market may be tricky, but investing in women’s sports is a no-brainer. Boardroom’s Gabe Oshin breaks down the big business of women’s sports….
The new Gotham FC player speaks with Boardroom about making an NWSL superteam, what advice she got from Ali Krieger, and her role in advancing the sport….