Lyon ownership group to buy Rapinoe's NWSL team Reign FC for $3.51 million
Reign FC and Lyon parent company OL Groupe announced Thursday that the two sides have agreed to terms on the purchase of the National Women's Soccer League club.
OL Groupe will pay $3.51 million for the American club's assets, pending approval of the NWSL board of directors. The French company announced its intention to negotiate a deal last month. It becomes the first international majority ownership group in a league that began play in 2013.
In addition to the OL Groupe's 89.5% majority stake, Reign FC's original owners Bill and Teresa Predmore will maintain a 7.5 percent stake through a newly formed American company overseeing the club's operations. Additionally, French basketball legend and OL brand ambassador Tony Parker will have a 3% stake and hold a seat on the board of directors.
The sale includes Reign FC's youth academy, which involved with the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program.
Jean-Michel Aulas will serve as chairman of the club's board of directors, with Parker holding a seat. Bill Predmore will remain the club's CEO. A COO will be named later by OL Groupe and Teresa Predmore will remain as president of the Reign Academy youth programs.
"Our ambition has always been to operate the best women's football club in the world," Bill Predmore said in a statement. "This is a distinction long held by OL, making them the perfect organization to help us achieve our long-term objectives for the club.
"We believe the combination of OL's experience and expertise with our knowledge of the market and league will allow future investments to deliver the optimal impact to the club and to the NWSL."
No stranger to international talent on the field, although it lost Australian star and reigning MVP Sam Kerr to Chelsea this offseason, the NWSL now adds investment from the most successful club in women's professional soccer.
Lyon is four-time reigning winner of the UEFA Women's Champions League and has won that tournament six times in all since 2011. They have also won 13 domestic league titles and have some of the sport's biggest names in their squad, including England's Lucy Bronze and France's Wendie Renard.
Lyon owner Aulas has spared little expense in assembling the on-field dynasty over more than a decade, including bringing Americans like Alex Morgan and current Reign FC star and Ballon d'Or winner Megan Rapinoe abroad for stints.
Lyon's interest in the U.S. is not new. After the club signed Morgan in 2017, current Lyon deputy president Marino Faccioli told espnW that part of the interest in signing her, in addition to goal production, was that the club "wanted to open up to the U.S. market."
Rapinoe, the Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner at this year's World Cup, praised the new partnership.
"From a philosophical perspective, to have a shared vision and desire and belief in the potential in the future of the women's game, not only here in America but worldwide, I think, is vital," she said.
While City Football Group, parent company of Manchester City, operates a team in Australia's W-League and Barcelona has in the past expressed interest in operating an NWSL team, Lyon is the first European club to invest so directly in the American professional league.
The sale also means Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC and Washington Spirit are the only remaining NWSL clubs not directly affiliated with a men's professional club.
Reign FC said it will continue to play its games in Tacoma's Cheney Stadium. It moved to Tacoma last season after playing in various venues in and around Seattle since 2013.