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Report: Portland Thorns valued at $60 million ahead of sale

The Portland Thorns won their third title during the 2022 NWSL season. (Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

An investor group plans to submit a formal offer for a majority stake in the Portland Thorns at a $60 million valuation, ESPN reported Thursday.

Merritt Paulson announced Thursday his intent to sell the club, which has been embroiled in the NWSL abuse scandal for the last year but also has been one of the most successful in the NWSL’s 10-year history. The Thorns capped the 2022 NWSL season with their third title.

The Oregonian reported Thursday that Paulson is seeking at least $60 million for the club.

Former Nike executive Melanie Strong leads the group prepared to submit a formal bid to Paulson, and the two sides have been engaged in discussion over the last two months, per ESPN.

As Paulson aims to maintain control of his MLS club, the Portland Timbers, Strong’s group is proposing a hybrid model under which one-third of the staff would be shared among the Thorns and Timbers, a source told ESPN.

“We represent a group of women sports and business executives prepared to make a bid for the Portland Thorns,” the group said Thursday in a statement to The Athletic. “Our vision is to build on the club’s storied history with an athlete-centered approach, where the Thorns are management’s sole focus. We’re excited to enter into discussions with the current ownership and begin our due diligence.”

Even before Paulson confirmed his plan to sell the franchise, bankers had told Sportico that the Thorns could bring in a record deal.

Portland not only has won three NWSL championships and two NWSL Shields, the team also led the league in attendance for seven straight seasons – until the 2022 season, when expansion club Angel City FC took the top spot.

Franchise valuations in the league have skyrocketed over the last year. The Washington Spirit sold for $35 million in February, while Gotham FC was valued at $40 million in August. And Angel City FC is valued at more than $100 million, per a Sportico report.