Merritt Paulson Announces Sale of NWSL’s Portland Thorns


Merritt Paulson, owner of the Portland Thorns and Timbers, announced his intention to sell it NWSL Club on Thursday, but not MLS.

Since then, Paulson has been under pressure to sell both Thorne and Timbers. Allegations of sexual harassment and coercion were made against former Thorns manager Paul Riley, for which he was fired for cause in 2015.

That pressure – from both fans and sponsors – escalated after release of the Yates Report, which detailed systemic sexual and emotional abuse throughout the league. In addition to the allegations leveled against Riley, the report detailed how the Portland organization sought to keep quiet the reasons for Riley’s departure.

– Allegations of abuse of the NWSL: Timeline, Quotes & Videos

“The past year has been challenging for our club and our players,” Paulsson said in a press release announcing his intentions. “I am sorry for our organization’s role in the failings found in the investigation. Despite these challenges, the Portland Thorns have a bright future and much more to achieve.

“To fully realize that potential, I believe it is in the best interest of the Thorns to have a new owner so that the club can operate at the league level with a new voice to become a driving force for the NWSL.” . . This has been a difficult .decision for me, but I believe this is the best way to position the Thorns for continued success during this next chapter of the NWSL and the sport.”

Earlier Thursday, ESPN reported that an all-female investor group led by Melanie Strong, a former Nike executive and one of Next Ventures’ managing partners, has been set up. to formally submit a bid to acquire a majority stake in the Thorns that would value the team at $60 million.

Paulson said that an ownership change for the Thorns “would not affect” his ownership of the Timbers through Peregrine Sports, the business entity that officially owns both teams. He also expressed a wish that the Thorns’ new owners would agree to the team continuing to play their home games at Providence Park.

“We are committed to continuing to work collaboratively with the NWSL to ensure that we find the right group to take over the reins,” Paulson said. “We will not rush to make a decision because we want to do it right for our players, Portland and women’s soccer.”

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said she supported the decision to sell the Thorns, who won their third league championship in October despite all the turmoil surrounding the club.

“The Thorns, its players, its dedicated fan base and the entire Portland community have played a significant role in the first decade of our league and are vitally important to the future success of the NWSL,” he said in a statement.

Paulson also announced that he would pledge $1m to establish the NWSL Player Safety Office.

“I love the vision of Commissioner Berman and I am proud to put the founding capital towards this project,” he said.

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