Bob Iger and Willow Bay on verge of buying majority stake in Angel City for $250 million

Walt Disney Co. chief executive Bob Iger and his wife Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, are close to completing a deal that would see them invest $250 million in Angel City FC, nearly doubling the value of the most valuable women’s sports franchise in the world.

Dylan Byers, of the news website Puck, was first to report on the negotiations, were which confirmed to The Times by two people with knowledge of the investment, but who are not authorized to speak about it on the record. The transaction could be completed quickly, with Bay and Iger replacing Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian as the team’s controlling shareholder.

Ohanian was also the team’s representative on the NWSL Board of Governors. It was not immediately clear Tuesday who would assume that role.

Angel City officials declined to comment.

Last fall, Ohanian, Angel City’s lead investor and one of its four primary owners, raised objections to the team’s profligate spending. Angel City had by far the most revenue in the NWSL last year at $31 million, but it is also spending the most, leaving it years away from profitability.

The resulting six-month feud ultimately led the team’s board to hire Moelis & Co., a New York investment bank, to manage a sale of the NWSL club.

According to the online site Semafor, the investment from Bay and Iger has a pre-capital valuation of $250 million. The team now values itself at $300 million, Semafor said. That’s $120 million more than the valuation Sportico gave the club last October and nearly 5 1/2 times the average 2023 valuation of the other 11 NWSL clubs.

Angel City FC was launched four years ago by actress Natalie Portman, venture capitalist Kara Nortman and entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, who quickly recruited more than 100 other investors from Hollywood and the sports world. The vast majority of the team’s investors are women, giving the team the largest female-led ownership group in pro sports history. That made Bay’s role in the investment particularly important to many of the owner/investors who had to sign off on the deal.

Iger and Bay attended Angel City’s home game against Orlando on Sunday, one Angel City (4-8-3) lost, falling to 11th in the 14-team league standings.

Investors have been flocking into women’s sports in the last couple of years, with global investment firm Sixth Street backing Bay FC, the expansion team in Northern California, the Levine Leichtman family, who jointly manage the investment firm Levin Leicthman Capital Partners, buying the San Diego Wave in March for a record $120 million and Laura Ricketts, co-owner of baseball’s Chicago Cubs, buying the Chicago Red Stars last summer.

Nearly every NWSL team has undergone an ownership change or welcomed significant new investment in the last four years, giving the league more billionaire backers than at any time in its history.

“The industry, the sports industry, recognized that women’s sports were a good investment,” said Cheryl Cooky, a professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Purdue. “And so they’re also sort of joining the bandwagon.”

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