Chicago Red Stars: NWSL team set to take ownership as women-led investor group led by Cubs and Sky co-owner Laura Ricketts accepts deal to succeed Arnim Whisler
A group of women-led Chicago investors led by Laura Ricketts have reached a tentative agreement to buy the Red Stars from the NWSL, it has been confirmed.
The Chicago Red Stars have been on the market since majority owner Arnim Whisler put the women’s soccer team up for sale last December, a move that has been celebrated by players and fans amid fierce calls for he leaves.
Following the release of the Sally Yates report in October 2022, which accused Merritt Paulson, owner of Whisler and Portland Thorns, of abusive behavior and downplayed sexual misconduct complaints made against their respective coaches, the Red Stars players issued a collective statement calling for his departure.
“We are united with the board in their decision to remove Whisler entirely from the organization and we look forward to finding a new majority owner who can help us realize the full potential that we players have always known we have. ‘He existed for this club’, the statement said.
And eight months since Whisler put the club up for sale, the Red Stars are now poised to take control after a group of mostly Chicago businesswomen reached a deal to buy it from SeatGeek Stadium.
A women-led group led by Laura Ricketts (center) has agreed to buy the Chicago Red Stars
Chicago Red Stars have been on the market since majority owner Arnim Whisler put them up for sale in December last year
Your browser does not support iframes.
The consortium, led by the Chicago Cubs and Sky co-owner Ricketts, announced Tuesday that an agreement in principle has been reached to acquire the Chicago women’s soccer team.
“I am honored to lead this group of Chicago business and civic leaders in our efforts to purchase the Chicago Red Stars,” Ricketts said in a statement.
“Our respective backgrounds in professional sports, finance, turnaround management, commercial real estate, marketing and advertising, coupled with our deep community ties, make for a powerful combination that will serve us well in our ultimate goal: to create a organization of championships from time to time.
In addition to Ricketts, other businesswomen involved in the deal to buy the Chicago Red Stars include: Debra Cafaro, CEO of Ventas and co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins; Sideny Dillard, partner at Loop Capital of Chicago; Jennifer Pritzker, CEO of TAWANI Enterprises; and Jessica Droste Yagan, CEO of Impact Engine.
Engelhardt Family Office entrepreneur Tom O’Reilly is the only male member of the Red Stars’ proposed new ownership group.
Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, with the group now needing approval from the NWSL Board of Governors for the sale to go through.
“We wholeheartedly believe in and are excited about the future of the Red Stars and the NWSL,” Ricketts continued. “There is unprecedented growth in women’s soccer fans around the world, and we want to be part of building that momentum here in Chicago.”
The club, which plays its matches at SeatGeek Stadium, is now ready for a change of ownership
The Ricketts family have owned the Chicago Cubs baseball team since acquiring 95% of the franchise in 2009. Laura joined her brothers Thomas, Pete and Todd on the board, the three siblings sharing the property.
She was also a member of the ownership group that struck an $8.5 million deal for 10% of WNBA team Chicago Sky earlier this summer.
The Red Stars have spent the past decade in the NWSL and made the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons, including trips to the championship game in 2019 and 2021.