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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Another Milestone for NWSL: Angel City FC’s Potential $300M Valuation

  • One report notes the Los Angeles-based club is valued at $250 million.
  • Earlier this year, the San Diego Wave sold for $113 million.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The wins just seem to keep coming for the NWSL.

Now into the second half of a season that is on pace to break total match attendance and viewership records, a new mark around franchise valuations appears to be on the way, too. 

That’s coming by way of a potential ownership stake sale in Angel City FC. The Los Angeles-based club is said to be valued at a league-high $250 million as Disney CEO Bob Iger and his wife Willow Bay close in on the purchase of a controlling share, according to multiple reports. One report, from Semafor, put the new number even higher, saying Angel City will now be valued at more than $300 million with the new investment.

Iger and Bay would be taking over Angel City’s largest ownership stake from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, according to the reports. However, Ohanian refuted that notion in a post on X. “As I’ve said from jump, I’m not selling any shares in the team–dunno why I keep seeing false reports,” he wrote. Ohanian also acknowledged that he didn’t set up control of the Angel City board of directors for myself, which he said is “one of many hard lessons I learned as a first-time sports team owner.”

Whatever the final valuation for Angel City ends up being, should the deal be completed, it represents the richest women’s sports team in the world, and is likely to come in at more than double the most recent NWSL franchise sale. In March, the San Diego Wave were sold for a then-league record $113 million. 

The NWSL Rocket Ship

While markets certainly play a factor is a specific club’s value, a clear upward trend can be seen in the NWSL over the last year:

  • Portland Thorns: Sold for $63 million in January
  • Bay FC: Launched this year, and a forthcoming Boston club, paid $53 million expansion fees
  • Chicago Red Stars: Sold for $35.5 million in 2023

The growth just from the Portland sale to San Diego to now Angel City—roughly doubling each time—is on par with, or even better in some cases, than trends in top men’s leagues. The most recent NFL sales include the Commanders ($6.05 billion), Broncos ($4.65 billion), and Panthers ($2.275 billion). In the NBA, the Hornets sold for $3 billion last summer shortly after the Suns sold for $4 billion.

Big Move for Iger

While the 73-year-old Iger has long been a force within sports media, this would represent his first personal investment in a professional franchise. “We have been waiting for the right opportunity,” Iger and Bay said in a pitch deck obtained by Semafor.  

Iger is currently under contract with Disney—which holds NWSL media rights—through 2026, setting up a unique scenario where a club investor would also be the top executive of a league broadcast partner. His term is set to end one year before the NWSL’s $240 million media rights deals with ESPN, CBS, Amazon, and Scripps Sports expire after the ’27 season. For now, it’s unclear how his involvement with Angel City could impact the Disney-NWSL relationship.

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