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Michele Kang wants to make Spirit and Lyon ‘stronger’ with merger

Michele Kang became the controlling owner of the Spirit in February 2022. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Washington Spirit owner Michele Kang will oversee a new women’s soccer organization that will include her NWSL club and Olympique Lyonnais Féminin.

She sees in the merger an opportunity to make both clubs “stronger,” she told the Washington Post after the announcement of the new venture Tuesday afternoon. She also attempted to assuage any fears Spirit fans might have.

“I want to make sure that they understand, this is not taking anything away from the Spirit,” Kang said. “This is to make every team even stronger by pulling some of the resources, but local identity, local investment will continue to remain strong.”

Kang reached an agreement with Olympique Lyonnais leadership to form the women’s soccer organization, with Kang as the majority owner and CEO. The group plans to expand to include multiple women’s clubs around the world, The Athletic reported.

The move comes a little more than 13 months after Kang officially acquired majority stake in the Spirit in March 2022. The new organization will be the first woman-owned, multi-club organization of its kind, the Washington Post reported.

“This is not just about the Spirit. This is not just about OL. This is about bringing women’s soccer to that level so that young girls growing up all around the world can see it and be inspired and say, ‘I’m going to go into professional soccer,’” Kang said.

OL Groupe, which holds controlling interests in the Lyon women’s and men’s teams as well as NWSL club OL Reign, was acquired by U.S. businessman John Textor in December.

In April, OL Groupe announced its plans to sell OL Reign but denied a report that Kang would purchase the Lyon’s women’s team. With the new organization, Kang will hold a 52% stake in the women’s team, while OL Groupe will hold the remaining 48%.

The decision to sell OL Reign came before Kang’s involvement, Kang told The Athletic, and not due to the potential conflict of interest from a connection to two different NWSL teams. Still, the plan is to have a “clear firewall” in place between Kang and the OL Reign during the sale, she said.

The merger of the Washington Spirit and Lyon into one organization is not yet official, with an anticipated closing date of June 30. Still, Kang is already making plans. The teams will maintain separate identities and local infrastructure, but the umbrella organization will allow for centralized infrastructure and support, she said.

“We will invest in the tools, resources and communities for each team to win their respective championships, season after season, while respecting the history and culture of each club,” Kang said in a statement.