Michele Kang officially has acquired majority ownership of the Washington Spirit, with the team announced Wednesday.
Kang is the first minority woman to hold a majority stake in a NWSL franchise. A majority of the other investors in the team are women.
“We are thrilled that the sale of the Washington Spirit to Michele Kang has closed,” said NWSL interim CEO Marla Messing. “We know Michele is passionate about building a great soccer club, bringing professional quality resources to the players and front office staff, and promoting gender equity in all aspects of her businesses. This is a great result for the entire NWSL.”
Kang has faced an uphill battle in acquiring the Spirit, going up against former owner Steve Baldwin multiple times since last season. The saga began when former head coach Richie Burke was fired amid allegations of verbal and emotional abuse. Subsequently, a NWSL investigation found that the Spirit front office was fostering a toxic work culture for women employees.
While Baldwin had reportedly offered to sell the team to Kang last April, that offer was rescinded.
Last October, Baldwin said he would sell the team by the end of the year following multiple calls to do so. He later pursued talks with a group led by Todd Boehly and Jennifer Mackesy even though Kang offered a higher bid.
In mid-January, Kang turned the tables, with The Athletic reporting that she had rallied other co-owners to her cause, acquiring the number of votes required to approve a sale of the club to herself. After the NWSL’s Board of Governors approved Kang’s potential ownership of the club, Baldwin sent out an email in which he aired his grievances against Kang in a last-ditch effort to retain control of the club.
In February, the Spirit announced that they had authorized the sale of the club to Kang. Baldwin said in that statement that he was “pleased” to see “someone with Michele’s commitment to the Spirit” lead the team while “sincerely” wishing her and the organization the best.
“Our players are the best of the best on and off the field,” Kang said on Wednesday. “They deserve nothing less than a club that sets and achieves the high standards befitting these elite professional athletes. We dream big dreams here. Our ambition is to not only be the best women’s soccer team in the world but the best sports team, period.”