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Chicago Sky valued at US$85m after investors acquire 10% stake

Seattle Storm only team valued higher in WNBA as Cubs co-owner and Foot Locker CEO buy in.

7 June 2023 Josh Sim

Getty Images

  • Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts and Foot Locker CEO Mary Dillon among new investors
  • Sky aiming to build a new practice facility with new capital

The Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) Chicago Sky have been valued at US$85 million after a ten per cent stake in the team was sold to a group of eight investors.

Those investing in the Sky include Laura Ricketts, co-owner of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Chicago Cubs, as well as Foot Locker’s chief executive Mary Dillon. Laura Desmond, chief executive of digital advertising platform Smartly.io, and Tina Tchen, former president and chief executive of Time’s Up are also a part of the group.

The sales remain subject to formal approval by the WNBA’s board of governors. In addition, franchise co-owner Nadia Rawlinson, who also serves as the team’s operating chairman, and John Rogers, another team minority owner, will also invest an undisclosed amount into the team. The expanded ownership group will still be led by Michael Alter as the Sky’s principal owner.

The US$8.5 million raised by the stake’s sale will be spent on improving player experience, marketing, and staffing. A franchise priority is to build a new practice facility, with the Sky currently scouting different locations in Chicago. The team are aiming to have the new venue in place shortly after the 2024 season.

“It was important for us to go public with this because it’s a signal that capital is bullish about this [being] where people want to make significant investments for returns over time,” Rawlinson told Sportico. “That is a huge vote of confidence, not just for us, but for the league as a whole.”

SportsPro says…

Given that US businessman Mark Davis bought the Las Vegas Aces in 2021 for just US$2 million, the Sky’s valuation underlines the rocketing value of WNBA franchises. The US$85 million valuation is the second-highest in the league, behind the Seattle Storm which was valued at US$151 million after a recent sale of a minority stake.

The league’s popularity continues to soar, with the Aces’ win over the Storm last month becoming the league’s most viewed opening weekend game in 11 years. A US$75 million investment raised last year has helped the league transform its digital operations, while adding an expansion team remains firmly on the WNBA’s agenda for 2025.

The rising value for the competition has also been acknowledged by its partners, with ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro recently acknowledging the sports network may find it more difficult to retain its rights. With a higher amount of rights revenue on the cards, the WNBA’s potential growth should continue to make it an attractive proposition for investors.

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