TACOMA — OL Groupe, the parent company of Olympic Lyon in France, was looking to have a partnership with a women’s soccer team in the United States. Reign FC owners Bill and Teresa Predmore were looking for someone who could take the soccer team to the next level.
With Thursday’s announced sale of the Reign to Olympic Lyon, both parties got what they were looking for, and it gave Reign star Megan Rapinoe a chance “to come full circle,” as she played for Olympic Lyon’s women’s team in 2013.
There were smiles all around at a news conference at Cheney Stadium announcing that Reign FC has signed an agreement to sell majority ownership of the National Women’s Soccer League team to OL Groupe. The purchase price was not disclosed.
Among those speaking to more than 200, including media, fans and Reign Academy players, were Rapinoe, OL Groupe president Jean-Michel Aulas, NWSL president Amanda Duffy, the Predmores and former NBA star Tony Parker, who will have a minor stake in the team.
The transaction is expected to close in January, with OL Groupe holding an 89.5% stake, the Predmores retaining a 7.5% stake and Parker, an OL brand ambassador in the United States, a 3% stake.
The Reign Academy, which has also been owned by Reign FC, was included in the sale. Bill Predmore will remain CEO of Reign FC, and Teresa Predmore will remain as president of the academy.
“I think this is a big day for Reign FC, the NWSL and women’s professional soccer,” said Bill Predmore, of having one of Europe’s top clubs become the majority owner. “They are obviously an unbelievable football brand.”
Predmore said he had more lucrative offers, but those would have included moving the team, and he said that was a nonstarter.
Rapinoe, a U.S. national team star, has been with the Reign since the NWSL began in 2013. She said, “it is such an exciting day, and I hope everyone feels that way.” She paid tribute to the Predmores, who have owned the club from its outset, starting with six years in Seattle before moving to Tacoma last season.
“I think with anything that is great, or has the desire to be great, first there needs to be a vision of it, and a belief of it, even if there isn’t anything to look at in your vision,” she said. “Without you guys and without the vision you had, and the grittiness and tenacity to make it come to life … just how you approached this club was to make it the best club in the world.
“That is the baseline, to win championships on the field, to be the best we possibly can off the field, and in every way possible be the best in the world. Thank you to Bill and Teresa for having that vision and allowing a player like me, with all my wildness, to be a part of it.”
The Reign have twice won the NWSL Shield for most points in a season, in 2014 and 2015, and lost in the league title game both of those seasons. Aulas made it clear Thursday that success from the Reign is important.
“We come here in a humble way, but we have ambition to win titles,” Aulas said through an interpreter.
Rapinoe said “you can’t overstate” the benefits of the team’s partnership with one of the world’s biggest clubs, one that shares her vision of growing the women’s game. In 2013, she helped Lyon reach the Champions League title game.
“You couldn’t stay away from me for too long, and I wasn’t coming back to France, so this was a good meet in the middle,” said Rapinoe, who said she might play five more years in response to Parker saying he hoped for 10 more.
Parker, who was part of four NBA title teams with the San Antonio Spurs, is the majority owner of the Lyon women’s basketball team in the French League, with the OL Groupe having a minor stake.
“I’ve always had a passion to invest in women’s sports,” Parker said. “I am here today to tell you that you chose a great partnership (with OL Groupe). … I will try to do my best with my experience to help this team.”