Angel City for Sale: NWSL’s Most Valuable Team Seeks New Owner – Sportico

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The NWSL’s most valuable franchise may soon have a new owner.

The board of Angel City FC has hired Moelis & Company to explore a control sale of the franchise, according to multiple people familiar with the plan. The process follows tension between some board members over team governance, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the details are private.

The team’s largest shareholder, Alexis Ohanian, does not control the board. It’s unclear how much of the team’s equity is available, and from where it would come. To further complicate matters, the team has three co-founding partners—Kara Nortman, Natalie Portman and Julie Uhrman—plus dozens of smaller investors, many of them celebrities.  

Moelis’ mandate includes permission from all four primary owners to shop a stake that includes board control, multiple sources said. There’s no guarantee that a deal gets done, and it’s possible the process could yield an investor that doesn’t buy a control stake. However, the group has already engaged with some interested parties, among them former Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, according to sources. Lasry is looking to make investments via Avenue Capital’s new sports fund.

Ohanian said in an email he was not selling his equity and declined further comment. Representatives for Moelis, Angel City and the NWSL declined to comment.

It’s unclear exactly what’s led to the discord. Part of the friction, according to multiple people, involves team operations and finances. Angel City has by far the most revenue in NWSL, but it also spends the most, and the club is not profitable.

The team’s unique ownership structure has exacerbated tensions, according to sources. When the franchise formed a few years ago, Ohanian contributed by far the largest piece of the funding but did not retain a majority of the equity or board control. That’s a rare setup in pro sports, where the largest owner typically has final say in board decisions. (In another layer of complexity, Ohanian serves as the lead governor in league matters, with Uhrman serving as alternate governor.)

Sportico values Angel City at $180 million, the highest in the league. A sale would almost certainly set the league record for the largest valuation in a major transaction. Billionaire Ron Burkle earlier this month agreed to sell the San Diego Wave in a two-part, $113 million deal, nearly double the previous record.

Ohanian has a personal stake in Angel City, plus a portion held by his venture capital firm, Seven Seven Six. His former VC firm, Initialized, is also an investor.

Angel City was awarded a team in 2020 and joined NWSL in 2022. Investors include pop stars Christina Aguilera and Becky G; actresses Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner and Eva Longoria; activist Billie Jean King; WNBA star Candace Parker; former NHL player P.K. Subban; skier Lindsey Vonn; and former USWNT stars Mia Hamm, Shannon Boxx and Julie Foudy.

The club has pushed league boundaries in many ways, some more welcome than others, but it has set a new commercial standard for the NWSL. Angel City had $31 million in revenue in 2023, according to Sportico’s numbers, while the next closest team, San Diego, earned $16.3 million. Only two others made more than $10 million.

Ohanian is co-founder and former executive chairman of Reddit, which is set to IPO next week. In addition to Angel City, his sports holdings include the Los Angeles TGL golf franchise.

Angel City was 8-7-7 last year and lost in the quarterfinals of the NWSL playoffs. Its roster includes Alyssa Thompson, Sydney Leroux and Christen Press. The 2024 NWSL season starts this weekend.

With assistance from Kurt Badenhausen.

(This story has been updated in the fourth paragraph with details of the pending sale process.)

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