comscore New group of all-female investors raises Sky’s valuation to $85M | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Every act of aloha counts. Click here to DONATE to the MAUI RELIEF Fund.
Sports Breaking | Top News

New group of all-female investors raises Sky’s valuation to $85M

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now
                                Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, middle, is boxed out by Chicago Sky guard Kahleah Copper (2) and center Kristine Anigwe (33) on May 21.


    Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, middle, is boxed out by Chicago Sky guard Kahleah Copper (2) and center Kristine Anigwe (33) on May 21.

The Chicago Sky are adding new investors and a splash of capital as the team seeks to expand its facilities, staff and player resources amid a year of record growth for the WNBA.

The franchise’s owners sold 10% of the team this week to a group of investors — including Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts — for $8.5 million, providing the team with a new valuation of $85 million.

The Sky’s valuation is now second in the WNBA behind the Seattle Storm, who set their new value at $130 million earlier this year after bringing in 15 new investors for a total of $21 million. These values are a dramatic shift for the league, which saw the Las Vegas Aces sell for only $2 million in 2021 fresh off a Western Conference title.

With this new round of investment, the Sky added six minority owners — all women.

Aside from Ricketts, the group includes Foot Locker CEO Mary Dillon; CEO Laura Desmond; Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art chair Cari Sacks; former Time’s Up CEO and current Obama Foundation chief strategy and impact officer Tina Tchen; and Curio Brands CEO Anne Sempowski Ward.

The Sky’s ownership group is now one of the most diverse in U.S. women’s sports, a key focus for Nadia Rawlinson, who joined the franchise as operating chairman and co-owner in January.

“It’s pretty significant when you can live your passion and purpose,” Rawlinson told the Tribune. “With women who are notable in their own right, to come in as investor owners and to really play a role in women’s sports and bringing that into the future is a pretty heady opportunity.

“I respect deeply each and every one of these women. There’s no words to describe it and I feel very proud to be a part of this group and helping bring it together. It is a highlight of my career to be able to do that with these women.”

The new valuation, conducted by Loop Capital, included additional investments from Rawlinson and longtime minority owner John Rogers. The sale is pending final approval from the WNBA’s Board of Governors.

Longtime owner Michael Alter will retain his primary stake in the Sky. The remaining previous minority investors also will retain their places in the ownership group, although details regarding individual stake values were not disclosed.

The addition of Ricketts is a long-awaited move after she entered into preliminary conversations with the Sky last summer about an investment in the team.

Ricketts felt investing in the Sky aligned with the philanthropic goals of her and her wife, Brooke Skinner. She already was working in coordination with the Sky after facilitating the team’s multiyear broadcasting deal on the Cubs-owned Marquee Sports Network.

“Brooke and I would love to support the Sky in any way we can,” Ricketts told the Tribune last July. “We really respect, admire and appreciate all that Michael Alter has done for that team. They are one of a few (WNBA) teams that weren’t started in connection with an NBA team, and so the challenges that has had and the impact that has had on the team makes Michael’s investment all the more impressive and I really appreciate that.”

Rawlinson described Ricketts as “an amazing support to the franchise” even before she officially invested.

While a connection with the Cubs was welcome, Rawlinson said Ricketts’ inclusion reflected the Sky’s emphasis on finding “sophisticated investors” when assembling this group of minority owners.

“Of course (Ricketts’ inclusion) is a great signal, but that’s not why we thought this would be a great partnership,” Rawlinson said. “It wasn’t, ‘Oh, let’s look at what the synergies are between the Chicago Sky and the venerable Chicago Cubs franchise.’ That wasn’t the primary focus. It was really going back to the values of alignment, that we were singing from the same songbook and that we had the same belief system. And so it felt right.

“(Ricketts) has been someone who’s opened up her resources from expertise and best practices that (the Cubs) have for us to learn from and vice versa. I think there’s a huge opportunity there on both sides.”

For Rawlinson and the Sky front office, attention will turn quickly to the next milestone — creating an independent training facility.

The Sky currently train at Sachs Recreation Center in Deerfield, a 29-mile drive from the team’s home court at Wintrust Arena. Players don’t have 24/7 access to a gym or weight room.

The team previously improved provisions for players within the recreation center — purchasing high-tech recovery equipment such as a $50,000 AlterG treadmill, building a separate weight room and creating a family room for parents on the team — but Alter told the Tribune the ownership group understands that a separate facility is a necessary next step.

While the team is open to scouting sites throughout the city, Rawlinson said the primary goal is to develop a facility either near Wintrust Arena in the South Loop or on the South Side. The Sky’s lease at Sachs Recreation Center ends in 2024, which the team could target as an early goal to move into a newly established facility.

“These projects tend to take multiple years, so it’s not going to be this season — but it’s also not going to be five years from now,” Rawlinson said. “This is definitely in the near to mid term and something that we can feel confident talking about and getting people excited about the opportunity of what the Sky practice facility will be.”

Rawlinson said the Sky feel “pretty comfortable” with their current financial positioning, although another round of fundraising or future capital infusions aren’t off the table.

Besides investment in an independent training facility, the Sky will utilize the new investment capital to improve the team’s marketing and expand the front-office staff.

For James Wade — who joined the Sky as head coach and general manager in 2018 — this new round of investment represents an important step forward for the franchise to continue attracting top talent.

“I really like how much the franchise has grown,” Wade said. “I think sometimes our ownership gets unjustly attacked by people, and I think (Alter) and the rest of ownership has done nothing but really put everything into this organization and making it a top-tier organization.

“They’ve taken risk in bringing people in, and whether it’s relocating the team to the city or supplying resources that other major teams don’t have, I think we’ve done our best and we’re continuing to grow. It’s been nice to see where we were in 2018 and where we are today.”

Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Comments (0)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Click here to view ongoing news coverage of the Maui wildfires. Sign up for our free e-newsletter to get the latest news delivered to your inbox. Download the Honolulu Star-Advertiser mobile app to stay on top of breaking news coverage.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up