National Women’s Soccer League franchise the Portland Thorns have been acquired by the Bhathal Family – under RAJ Sports – for a reported $63m.
Led by Lisa Bhathal Merage and Alex Bhathal, they will take over from previous owners Peregrine Sports, with Lisa Bthathal Merage assuming the role of controlling owner and NWSL Governor, whilst Alex Bthathal serves as the team’s NWSL Alternate Governor.
Merritt Paulson, owner of the Thorns and Peregrine Sports, was pressured to sell the franchise after former Thorns Coach Paul Riley was involved in an abuse scandal that surfaced in September 2021 from his time at a previous club, leading to Paulson announcing in December 2022 that he would be putting the team up for sale.
A key component of the new ownership is RAJ Sports’ commitment to advancing plans for a new first-class, purpose-built, women’s soccer-specific training facility.
“This is a milestone day for our family, and for the amazing Portland community,” said Lisa Bhathal Merage.
“Everything we do centres on positive impact. As fans ourselves, and as seasoned sports and real estate operators, we believe in the future of Portland and the NWSL, and in the tremendous opportunity that surrounds this iconic team.
“I would like to thank Merritt Paulson for believing in our vision for this club and for all that he and the Thorns have done for the growth of the NWSL and women’s soccer in this country. We look forward to working with the Timbers throughout this transition and beyond to ensure the continued success of the Thorns at Providence Park.”
The Thorns acquisition is the latest in a growing portfolio of sports team ownership positions held by the Bhathal family, who include Lisa, Alex, and their parents Raj and Marta Bhathal.
The family’s additional holdings include the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, Sacramento RiverCats AAA baseball club, Stockton Kings NBA-G League club, and Kings Guard NBA 2K esports team.
“Our vision is to support new, widespread growth for the Thorns, the people of Portland, and for women’s sports as a whole,” Bhathal Merage added.
“Specifically, we bring deep experience in professional sports and large-scale real estate developments that create thriving community centres, making us well-positioned to deliver valuable assets that will support further growth for the players, staff, and fans.”