An investor group headed by Chicago Cubs co-owner and Chicago Sky minority owner Laura Ricketts has reached an agreement in principle to acquire the NWSL‘s Chicago Red Stars, the group announced on Tuesday.
The Red Stars were put up for sale by owner Arnim Whisler in the wake of the Sally Yates Report, which was published in October of 2022, and detailed systemic abuse in the NWSL.
The report highlighted alleged instances of abuse by former Red Stars manager Rory Dames, as well as Whisler’s failure to address Dames’ behavior.
The Red Stars players then released a statement requesting that Whisler put the team up for sale, a request that Whisler agreed to two months later.
“Building a championship culture begins with treating our players with the respect they deserve as women and athletes,” Ricketts said. “We look forward to completing this transaction so that we can begin this new chapter for the team and the fans.”
In the announcement, 12 additional investors were named.
That group includes: Angela E.L. Barnes, chief legal officer of IDEO; Traci P. Beck, M.D.; Debra Cafaro, chairman and CEO of Ventas, Inc. and partner in the Pittsburgh Penguins; Laura Desmond, chair and CEO of smartly.io; Sidney Dillard, investment banker and partner at Chicago’s Loop Capital; Megan Murphy, owner, LaCrosse Milling Company; Editha Paras, non-profit executive; Jennifer Pritzker, president and CEO, TAWANI Enterprises, Inc.; strategic communications consultant Hilary Rosen, and Jessica Droste Yagan, partner and CEO of Impact Engine. Also in the group are entrepreneur Tom O’Reilly and the Engelhardt Family Office.
“I am honored to lead this group of Chicago business and civic leaders in our effort to purchase the Chicago Red Stars,” said Ricketts. “Our respective backgrounds in professional sports, finance, turnaround management, commercial real estate, marketing and advertising, paired with our deep community ties, make for a powerful combination that will serve us well in reaching our ultimate goal: building a championship organization on and off the pitch.
“Laura Ricketts and the proposed new ownership group are exceptional leaders and we’re pleased with the progress that has been made,” an NWSL spokesperson said in a statement to ESPN.
“A final sale will require the approval of the NWSL Board of Governors, and we’ll have more to say if and when that occurs.”
The Red Stars have struggled so far this season, and currently sit in 11th place in the 12-team league.
Chicago was also eliminated from the NWSL Challenge Cup after finishing in last place in their four-team group.
“We wholeheartedly believe in and are excited about the future of the Red Stars and the NWSL,” Ricketts said. “There is unprecedented fan growth in women’s soccer globally, and we want to be a part of building on that momentum here in Chicago.”