Sue Bird, Eli Manning Join NWSL’s Gotham FC Ownership Group – Sportico.com


Sue Bird and Eli Manning have joined the ownership group of NWSL club NJ/NY Gotham FC, investing at a $40 million valuation, according to three people familiar with the deal.

The new minority stakeholders join Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures, founded by the NBA star and his business partner Rich Kleiman, and former USWNT star Carli Lloyd—who played for the club from 2018 through her retirement in 2021—as the latest big-name investors in the NWSL franchise. Giants executive Pete Guelli has also joined as an investor, according to the people.

Financial terms were not provided, but the people said the investments were made at a $40 million valuation. League valuations have soared in the past 12 months—the Washington Spirit were valued at a league-record $35 million when Michele Kang took over as majority owner earlier this year.

A spokesperson for Gotham FC declined to comment. A representative for Excel, which represents Manning, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did representatives for Bird. Guelli declined to comment.

Durant’s investment was announced in May after Lloyd’s was made public in April. Veteran sports executives Kristin Bernert and Karen Bryant were also announced as new minority owners earlier this year, joining an ownership group that includes New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife, Tammy, a former Goldman Sachs executive; IT services vet Ed Nalbandian; and former Bed, Bath & Beyond CEO Steven Temares.

Bird, a New York native, is currently playing in her final WNBA season, having announced plans to retire at the end of the 2022 campaign after a 19-season career with the Seattle Storm. Bird’s longtime partner, USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, plays in the NWSL as a forward for the OL Reign.

Manning spent 16 seasons with the New York Giants, retiring after the 2019 campaign, and is now a partner at private equity firm Brand Velocity Group.

Celebrity-laden ownership groups have become increasingly common in the NWSL in recent years. Tennis star Naomi Osaka joined the North Carolina Courage ownership group in early 2021, the same year the Washington Spirit announced it had added a slew of investors including Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin—whose investment never actually came to fruition—as well as the former first daughters Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush Hager, and Olympians Dominique Dawes and Briana Scurry.

Angel City FC, playing in its debut season, has more than 100 A-list investors on its cap table. Actors Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Garner are among the expanding franchise’s investors, alongside tennis star Serena Williams, who is married to lead ACFC investor and former Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, WNBA star Candace Parker and several former members of the USWNT, including Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach.

MLS is similarly popular with sports and Hollywood elites: Durant is also a part owner of the Philadelphia Union; James Harden has a stake in the Houston Dynamo, while actors Matthew McConaughey (Austin FC), Reese Witherspoon (Nashville SC) and Will Ferrell (LAFC) all own franchise stakes.

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