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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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San Diego Wave to Be Sold For NWSL Record $113 Million

  • The deal nearly doubles the league’s previous highest sale of $63 million.
  • The new owners are longtime supporters of Wave coach Jill Ellis.
Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Wave will be sold for an NWSL record $113 million, far beyond the league’s previous high, set earlier this year with the $63 million sale of the Portland Thorns. The total valuation could later become $120 million in what’s being structured as a two-part deal.

NWSL owners approved the sale earlier this week by principal owner Ron Burkle to the Levine Leichtman family, with the new owners paying $35 million up front and taking a portion of the team now, and then full control at the end of the season with another $78 million payment, sources confirmed to The Athletic and Sportico, which first reported the news. The NWSL begins a new season on Saturday.

Lauren Leichtman and Arthur Levine founded the private equity firm Levine Leichtman Capital Partners. Buying the Wave is the couple’s most substantial foray into sports, though the firm has invested in a custom golf club company. Levine attended business school at UCLA, and he and Leichtman became a supporter of the school’s women’s soccer team. Wave team president and former U.S. women’s national team coach Jill Ellis led UCLA from 1999 to 2010.

“Arthur and Lauren have been great supporters of mine for many years. … It is my pleasure to welcome them to the organization,” Ellis said in a statement.

Burkle, the former longtime owner and current stakeholder of the Pittsburgh Penguins, paid a $2 million expansion fee to bring the Wave to the NWSL, and the team began play in the 2022 season. The latest NWSL expansion fees, to put teams in Boston and the Bay Area, each totaled $53 million. (Earlier this year, Burkle’s name was released in court documents connected to Jeffrey Epstein, alleging that he “had knowledge” of Epstein and his girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking conduct. He is not said to have done anything wrong.)

The Wave has seen impressive fan interest and on-field success in its first two seasons. Captained by one of the sport’s biggest stars, Alex Morgan, the team leads the league in attendance, averaging more than 20,000 fans per match, and in 2022 set a now-broken attendance record by filling their 32,000 seat arena.

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