NWSL’s Portland Thorns sold to Kings investors Bhathal family

The Portland Thorns have been acquired by the Bhathal family, investors in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, the National Women’s Soccer League team announced Wednesday.

RAJ Sports bought the team for $63 million, according to a person familiar with the deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

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Merritt Paulson, whose Peregrine Sports also owns Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers, put the Thorns up for sale in late 2022 amid a series of abuse and misconduct scandals that have rocked the NWSL.

The Bhathal family was part of the group that purchased the Sacramento Kings in 2013. RAJ Sports is run by siblings Lisa Bhathal Merage and Alex Bhathal, co-founders and partners of the Southern California-based firm Revitate, which specializes in sports. and real estate. and investments in consumer brands.

The new owners plan to keep the team in Portland and will continue to play at Providence Park, the downtown stadium that also houses the Timbers. The team will continue to train at the stadium until a new women’s practice facility is built.

Lisa Bhathal Merage will serve as majority owner and represent the team on the NWSL Board of Governors. Alex Bhathal will serve as an alternate on the board.

“As fans and experienced sports and real estate operators, we believe in the future of Portland and the NWSL, and the tremendous opportunity surrounding this iconic team,” Bhathal Merage said in the statement. “I would like to thank Merritt Paulson for believing in our vision for this club and for everything he and the Thorns have done for the growth of the NWSL and women’s soccer in this country.”

The Thorns were among the original eight teams in the NWSL and won the league’s first championship in 2013. The team also won league titles in 2017 and 2022.

A pair of former Thorns players, Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, came forward in 2021 with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct involving Paul Riley, who coached the team from 2014 to 2015.

Riley, who denied the allegations, was later fired by the North Carolina Courage, where he had been coaching, and NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird resigned in the wake of the allegations.

After a pair of investigations that detailed widespread misconduct and mishandling of complaints across the league, two Thorns executives were fired in 2022. Paulson stepped down from his decision-making role at the club, but there were persistent calls for him to sell the team and the Thorns. They went on sale in December 2022.

Paulson maintained that he wanted to sell the Thorns to owners who would keep the team in Portland. There were multiple offers for the team.

The NWSL Board of Governors approved the sale last week.

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