Seahawks Quarterback Joins Microsoft CEO to Buy Stake in Seattle Soccer Club
(Bloomberg) -- Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella and rapper Macklemore are among the investors purchasing a stake in Seattle’s Major League Soccer team, fending off interest from suitors in California.
The group, which also includes Wilson’s wife — the singer Ciara — and Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood and her husband, are buying the stake owned by Joe Roth, a Hollywood producer who was once chairman of 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios. Roth had been the team’s majority owner from 2007 to 2015 and has retained a stake.
Terms of the deal, which closed July 31, weren’t disclosed.
The team, called the Sounders, is sitting in second place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference and touts a rabid fan base. That makes it an attractive investment among American soccer teams. The Sounders are No. 2 in attendance for 2019, with an average of 39,598 per game, according to Soccer Stadium Digest. Forbes has valued the team at $310 million, making it the third-most-valuable MLS club.
The investment group reads like a six-degrees-of-separation trip through Seattle’s tech, media and sports world.
The group was put together by venture capitalist and former Microsoft Windows chief Terry Myerson, now at Madrona Venture Group. The idea was the product of Myerson's final days at Microsoft in May 2018. At the time, he met with Microsoft board member and Mariners owner John Stanton. Stanton then offered to introduce him to Sounders majority-owner Adrian Hanauer.
Hanauer told Myerson that a group of California-based investors wanted to buy out Roth’s stake and some other stakeholders in order to take control of the team. To avoid that fate, Myerson began putting together a local group by reaching out to Nadella.
“My family loves the Sounders and couldn’t imagine them being owned outside Seattle,” Myerson said in an interview.
Nadella isn’t known as a soccer fan — cricket is his favorite sport — but Myerson said he’s a “huge” fan of Seattle sports.
Other investors include Joe Belfiore, one of Myerson’s fellow executives from Windows, and SoftBank Investment Advisors Partner Mark Agne. They’re joined by Soma Somasegar, a former Microsoft executive who is now at Madrona, and former Fox Sports executive David Nathanson, who is also involved in Seattle’s new hockey team, as well as all of their spouses.
They join existing owners Hanauer, Vulcan Sports & Entertainment — the vehicle of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen — and comedian and game-show host Drew Carey.
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