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Private equity firm part of Sounders' purchase of Reign

Carlyle Group's ownership stake is unclear, but Sounders would likely still be the group operating the team.

Last Updated
2 min read
Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

The Seattle Sounders’ bid to buy OL Reign is getting a boost from “private-equity giant” Carlyle Group, according to a new report from Sportico. The global investment firm manages nearly $400 billion of assets, and would have a non-controlling stake in the Reign's ownership.

The Sounders would likely run the day-to-day operations, but it's unclear exactly how their ownership in the team would be structured or if any other investors are involved. All indications are that the sale should be completed sometime in early 2024.

The Reign are currently scheduled to effectively take over the Sounders' old space at Starfire Sports Complex, including the grass training pitches and locker rooms. At least in the short term, the Reign would almost certainly continue with those plans as there isn't currently much room for them at Longacres. Longer-term, however, the space could be expanded to accommodate both teams.

The final sale price of the Reign is expected to be about $50 million, a dramatic increase from their $3.51 million valuation when OL Groupe bought an 89.5% share in 2019. Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer also briefly had an ownership stake when the Reign moved to Tacoma, but sold his shares when OL Groupe came in. That's still below the average valuation for NWSL teams, which has climbed to over $60 million according to Sportico's analysis.

A brief history of Sounders’ involvement with Reign
Despite what you may have heard, the Sounders and Reign have a long history of working together.

Private equity has had a growing stake in pro sports teams ever since Major League Baseball first starting allowing it in 2019. Since then, the NBA, NHL and MLS have all started taking private equity investment, with the NFL being the most notable holdout. Unlike those leagues, the NWSL does not have any limitations on how much of an ownership stake private equity can have in a given team. Bay FC and the soon-to-launch Boston team have ownership groups led by private equity firms, while the Utah Royals and Portland Thorns both have Arctos Partners as a minority partner.