The sale of Portland Thorns FC to RAJ Sports has been completed, the team announced Wednesday. The sale price totaled $63 million and the NWSL Board of Governors approved the transaction in a formal vote last week, according to two sources briefed on the deal. As reported here last month, Lisa Bhathal Maraz will serve as the team’s controlling owner and representative on the NWSL Board of Governors. His brother and partner in several business entities, Alex Bhathal, will serve as alternate governor.
Bhathal has committed to keeping the team in Portland. The Thorns have a lease agreement to play at Providence Park through 2035.
“As fans ourselves, and as experienced sports and real estate operators, we believe in the future of Portland and the NWSL and the tremendous opportunity that exists around this iconic team,” Bhathal Meraz said Wednesday. “We look forward to working with the Timbers during this transition and beyond to ensure the Thorns’ continued success at Providence Park.”
Sports operations for the Thorns are now completely under the control of Raj Sports. The Timbers organization will also follow through on its promise to provide operational support this season, while Bhatts will create a new front office for the Thorns, covering everything from ticket sales to sponsorships and game day operations. Bhathal has committed to building a new training facility for the club. A Timbers spokesperson confirmed this on Wednesday. athletic They have offered Providence Park as a continuing option as the team’s training facility for free until 2025 while a new facility is built.
Sources gave information about the sale process athletic In December the new Thorns ownership group began evaluating options for a new training facility within the Portland market – although they were awaiting feedback from staff and players before moving forward with plans. With the sale closed, communication between the Bhathal family and the playing side of the club is now open. The goal is to have “at least two” training areas, a training and demonstration center and office space.
Although the training facility is a major long-term project, it is not the only project facing the team’s new ownership. Building a new front office staff, rebuilding relationships with the club’s dedicated supporters and winning their trust, and waiting out the free agency window are all on the list. The Thorns have already lost Crystal Dunn and Michelle Vasconcelos to other teams and retaining their experienced core of Christine Sinclair, Becky Sauerbrunn and Meghan Klingenberg for their final season should be a top priority.
On December 1, 2022, the Thorns were up for sale for over a year after Merritt Paulson announced his intention to sell the NWSL club, but not the Timbers. The Thorns were one of the main clubs highlighted over the past two years. Investigative reporting and several official investigations related to systemic abuse in the NWSL. Also a focus is the Chicago Red Stars, which an ownership group led by Laura Ricketts purchased earlier this year for $35.5 million (an additional $25.5 million was promised to invest in the club).
Portland’s high sale price is no surprise given the team’s historically strong strength when it comes to revenue. According to Sportico, the Thorns are valued at $65 million (fourth highest in the league) and bring in annual revenues of $10.5 million (third highest). These evaluations were completed prior to the NWSL’s announcement of a new media rights deal with ESPN/ABC, CBS, Amazon and Scripps worth $60 million per year for four years.
NWSL unveils TV deals with ESPN, CBS and others
A source with knowledge of the situation also said that a $1 million fine issued by the league to Portland Thorns FC in January 2023 has been paid as part of this transaction.
The Bhathal family has made several investments in sports since 2013, including the Sacramento Kings. The siblings are also co-founders of Revitalt, an investment firm that focuses largely on sports, real estate and commercial brands. While both are based in California, they have other investments in Oregon and the Portland area.
(Photo: Sobum Im/Getty Images)