In a conversation with reporters ahead of the NWSL Challenge Cup final, league commissioner Jessica Berman stated that the sale of OL Reign should be completed by the end of 2023.
That same timeline is true for the other NWSL club up for sale, rivals Portland Thorns FC, which was put up for sale in December 2022 after a Sally Yates investigation and joint NWSL/NWSL Players’ Association investigation faulted owner Merritt Paulson and other Thorns officials for the role they played in allowing Paul Riley to abuse and sexually coerce players.
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Berman confirmed that both the Thorns and Reign met league deadlines this week to keep their sales on track for an end-of-year conclusion, with multiple bidders expressing interest in purchasing both clubs.
“This week was a preliminary deadline for both of those teams in their respective and independent sales processes,” Berman shared. “Both have achieved multiple bidders being interested, and we still expect both of those transactions to close by the end of the calendar year.”
Ride of the Valkyries sources have indicated that there are a couple of local groups seriously interested, although the specific potential owners have not been identified.
OL Reign was put up for sale in April 2023 after Washington Spirit owner Michele Kang began the process of purchasing Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, the women’s team also owned by OL Groupe, the Reign’s parent club. OL Groupe owner John Textor confirmed that the Reign sale was the result of Kang's purchase of OL Féminin, telling The Athletic, “Because otherwise, we would have joint ownership of two NWSL teams, with the Washington Spirit.”
As Jason Anderson confirmed for Pro Soccer Wire, Kang recently said that while her acquisition of Lyon is progressing, she's waiting on approvals in France and from the NWSL. Ride of the Valkyries reached out to the NWSL for updates on this process, and to confirm that the approval was dependent on the sale of OL Reign. At the time of publication, the league has not responded.
While the process to sell OL Reign continues, Berman noted that it’s business as usual at the club. OL Reign welcomed Lesle Gallimore as general manager in June and extended Laura Harvey’s contract through 2025. The team continues to fight for a playoff spot in a tight NWSL table.
“Until a team is sold, the incumbent ownership group, of course, retains all rights and obligations on behalf of their franchise,” Berman said at the press conference. “It’s really business as usual from the Reign’s perspective, in that the individuals who have been managing and governing the team are the same individuals that existed previously. So, there really has not been a change in circumstance in terms of how the club is being operated.”
That means OL Groupe – representing OL Reign – still has a seat on the NWSL Board of Governors, with Sophie Sauvage, OL’s head of international women’s football, sitting in that role.
The two teams up for sale will face each other next week, as the Reign head to Portland on Sept. 16. Just two points separate the teams, and a large traveling supporters group is expected from Seattle.