Tuesday October 3, 2023

Portland Thorns, Timbers Being Eyed By Former Nike Executive

  • The two soccer teams could land on the market as owner Merritt Paulson faces pressure to sell.
  • Paulson was named in an investigation into alleged abuse and sexual misconduct in the women’s game.
Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
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Two professional soccer teams have caught the attention of a former Nike executive.

A consortium of female entrepreneurs led by former Nike executive and advisor Melanie Strong have expressed interest in buying MLS’ Portland Timbers and the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. 

The two teams could land on the market soon, as owner Merritt Paulson faces pressure to sell following U.S. Soccer’s investigation into alleged abuse and sexual misconduct in the women’s game. Paulson was named in the probe — along with former Thorns and North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley — and has since relinquished his role as the teams’ chief executive. 

  • Paulson has yet to declare any intention to sell the two teams.
  • The Onward Rose City project — a potential community-based ownership group similar to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers — has also expressed takeover interest. 
  • The Thorns will play the Kansas City Current for the NWSL Championship on Oct. 29. 

Earlier this month, Alaska Airlines — a founding partner of the Timbers — announced that it is redirecting money from the Thorns and Timbers to the NWSL Players Association’s Support the Players National Emergency Trust and local youth sports. Oregon-based Directors Mortgage and Union Wine Company also ended their deals with both teams following the investigation.

Quiet Investment

Arctos Sports Partners was recently found to be an owner of the Timbers and Thorns after the deal went essentially unreported until October. The private equity firm and other undisclosed investors acquired a 15% stake in the teams at an enterprise value of $600 million.

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