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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Chicago Cubs, Sky Co-Owner Set To Acquire NWSL’s Red Stars

  • Laura Ricketts expands Chicago pro sports empire
  • Deal ends controversial tenure of outgoing owner Arnim Whisler
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most prominent pro sports team owners in Chicago is expanding her local empire.

A group led by Laura Ricketts, co-owner of MLB’s Cubs and a minority owner of the WNBA’s Sky, has reached an agreement in principle to purchase the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars from outgoing owner Arnim Whisler.

Industry sources pegged the deal at up to $35.5 million — a robust number, as the NWSL continues to grow, but no match for the $53 million expansion fee paid for Bay FC.

The deal brings a much more prominent and public sports ownership role for Ricketts. Though part of the Ricketts family’s purchase of the Cubs in 2009, Laura Ricketts has been far less in the limelight than her brother Tom, the team’s executive chairman. She has led the Cubs’ philanthropic efforts as the chair of Cubs Charities.

Ricketts just bought a minority share of the Michael Alter-led Sky in June along with several other investors, solidifying a long-developing interest. But with the Red Stars, she will be the lead of an investor group including several local and international business leaders, including Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro, part of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ ownership led by Fenway Sports Group.

An original NWSL franchise, the Red Stars have been league runner-up in 2019 and 2021. The club was put up for sale late last year after Whisler was found to be part of a pattern of abuse and sexual misconduct within the league. 

The Ricketts deal, still pending league approval, is several months behind an intended timetable.

“There is unprecedented fan growth in women’s soccer globally, and we want to be part of building that momentum here in Chicago,” Ricketts said.

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