Willow Bay, Disney CEO Iger near deal for Angel City – source

The dean of the USC Annenberg School, Willow Bay, and her husband, Disney CEO Bob Iger, are nearing a deal to purchase control of Angel City FC, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN on Wednesday.

The couple’s intent to purchase control of the NWSL club from Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, the team’s largest shareholder, was first reported by Semafor.

According to Semafor, the club’s current valuation is $250 million, and the Iger and Bay proposal would bring the new valuation to $300 million.

Ohanian, who is the husband of Serena Williams, does not have control of the NWSL club’s board. Later on Wednesday, Ohanian posted on social media: “For all the reporters who keep reaching out: when I bought the franchise to launch @weareangelcity in 2019, I didn’t setup board control for myself. (One of many hard lessons I learned as a first-time sports team owner). But as I’ve said from jump, I’m not selling any shares in the team–dunno why I keep seeing false reports.”

Angel City is seeking a woman owner, the source told ESPN, stressing Bay’s role in the deal. Puck’s Dylan Byers first reported Bay’s involvement.

In March, Sportico listed the club’s valuation at $180 million. The San Diego Wave sold for a valuation of $120 million in March, setting the NWSL record.

The team has three co-founding partners — Kara Nortman, Natalie Portman and Julie Uhrman.

Other investors include Eva Longoria and former United States women’s national team stars Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.

Playing at BMO Stadium near downtown Los Angeles, the club boasts more than 16,000 season-ticket holders.

Earlier this year Angel City FC’s board hired global investment bank Moelis & Company to explore a potential sale of the franchise, Sportico reported.

Former Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry also bid competitively, another source told ESPN, but the Bay and Iger pitch was favored for its long-term commitment. Manchester United owner Avie Glazer was another contender, according to reports.

A spokesperson for Disney declined to comment Wednesday on the potential deal. The Walt Disney Company is the majority owner of ESPN.

In November 2023, the NWSL announced a new four-year media rights deal that will partner the U.S. women’s top flight with CBS Sports, ESPN, Prime Video and Scripps Sports in 2024.

Almost every team in the 14-team NWSL has new ownership or major investors who joined in the past four years, leading to an influx of billionaire ownership groups with major league experience and deeper pockets than the league has ever had access to before.

“We are not sitting here today saying, ‘Is this thing still going to be around a year from now?’ which I think is a very different mindset maybe than the past,” NJ/NY Gotham FC lead owner and league board governor Carolyn Tisch Blodgett recently told ESPN.

Over the past four years, all but one team — the North Carolina Courage — has turned over majority ownership or joined the league as a new team.

In just about every case, they have been splashy, high-profile additions.

“From when we joined the league and even the conversations before, to now, the mindset around desire to invest, desire to see growth, how to achieve excellence, it’s wildly different,” Kansas City Current co-owner Chris Long, who sits on the NWSL’s expansion committee and co-founded the Current in late 2020 with his wife, Angie, and Brittany Mahomes, told ESPN recently.

“There has been a sea change, and it’s exciting,” he said. “There’s a lot of well-intentioned, well-capitalized people that have gotten involved of late over our four seasons, and then secondarily, a lot more people at the door.”

This NWSL season brought the arrival of expansion side Bay FC, backed by private equity firm Sixth Street, which says it manages over $75 billion in assets, and CEO Alan Waxman.

San Diego Wave FC, which joined the NWSL for around $2 million ahead of its 2022 expansion season, is in the middle of a sale process to the Levine Leichtman family (also billionaires) that values the club between $113 million and $120 million.

Seattle Reign FC sold to OL Groupe in late 2019 for about $3.5 million. Now that team just sold again for $58 million.