It took 15 months to finalize, but the Sounders woke up Tuesday morning with one of the world’s most diverse soccer ownership groups.
The Sounders announced 11 families have become owners, forming the Seattle Futbol Club LLC that partially bought out Hollywood producer Joe Roth’s stake in the team. The latter was a founding father in 2009 with Adrian Hanauer, Paul Allen and Drew Carey, operating primarily from California.
Once Roth announced he was stepping aside, Hanauer increased his majority stake in the club while Carey bumped up his investment with Jody Allen and the new owners entered at various levels as minority owners to round out the group.
Recognizable names such as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife, Grammy Award-winning singer and actor Ciara, join hip-hop star Macklemore and his wife, Tricia Davis, as new investors.
While Tuesday marked Day 1, the new faces won’t be formally introduced until a function slated for Aug. 19.
“This was not a financial investment,” said Hanauer at news conference at the team’s Pioneer Square office. “This was about community, team, culture, diversity, inclusiveness and, yeah, winning. It’s hard to have a conversation with Russell Wilson where winning doesn’t come up.”
Former Microsoft executive Terry Myerson and his wife, Katie, helped link the new owners together via emails, calls and multiple dinners at the Wilsons’ home.
The rest of the ownership field includes:
• Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his wife, Anu Nadella
• Microsoft chief financial officer Amy Hood and her husband, Max Kleinman
• Microsoft corporate vice president of experiences and devices Joe Belfiore and his wife, Kristina Belfiore
• Former Microsoft senior executive and current managing director of Madrona Venture Group, Soma Somasegar, and his wife, Akila Somasegar
• Chief product officer at Twilio, Chee Chew, and his wife, Christine Chew, who is president of the Bellevue School Board
• David Nathanson, formerly of FOX Sports Media Group, and his wife, Sabina Nathanson
• Former Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews and his wife, Elise Holschuh, who serves on the strategy committee of Hugo House
• Mark Agne, former managing partner at Softbank Investment Advisors, and Tomoko Agne
“I want input,” Hanauer said of drawing from all of the resources the 11 families can bring, including exposure and sponsorship connections. “But ultimately at some point, I as the majority owner need to make decisions that I think are best with all of the feedback and move on. Otherwise, you can be paralyzed through the analysis.”
The new ownership will have an executive board to help facilitate how to capitalize the bounty of ideas. But early discussions indicate there’s time because involvement is more rooted in strengthening the club in Seattle, which could mean improving the team’s Starfire Sports training facility in Tukwila or playing on a grass surface at CenturyLink Field.
“Seattle means so much to me and Ciara,” Wilson said in a news release. “We’re fired up about being part of the Sounders for a long, long time, having ownership in the Sounders and continuing to build that winning culture.
“When I got here in 2012, Seattle was a place that I felt I could call home forever. And obviously because of the Seahawks, and now because of the Sounders, it makes that really come to life. We’re really excited about building that winning culture. This city is a special place. The Pacific Northwest is a place we love and we get to raise our kids here and have a lot of fun while doing it. We want to bring the best soccer players in the world right here to Seattle.
“We think this is a transformational sport. It changes peoples’ lives. It brings people together from all different countries, all different worlds, all different socio-economic statuses, all different races, all different troubles in life – it brings people together. That’s what we’re excited about for this game, this team, and what we can do in Seattle.”
Ciara, in a release, said: “This is not only a special moment for Russ and I, but for our kids as well. When we walked into the building and our kids were running around with their names on their little jerseys, it meant a lot for so many reasons. It’s an honor to join the Sounders team and have the unique opportunity to represent female ownership within major-league sports. The team has already done some amazing things, but I believe the best is ahead, and we’re excited to be part of that.”
Macklemore, who grew up on Capitol Hill, said in a release: “Man, to be part of this organization, having grown up in Seattle – it’s pretty surreal. It’s just very exciting. I’m very honored. I think we have a great group. This team is building an incredible legacy, and I’m just excited to be part of it.”