O’Melveny Helps Bring National Women’s Soccer Team to Los AngelesJuly 21, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LOS ANGELES—July 21, 2020—O’Melveny represented WFC LA/Angel City in securing the exclusive right to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles.
The team’s official name and venue partner will be announced before the end of 2020, with the inaugural season set to kick off in spring 2022 as part of the National Women’s Soccer League. WFC LA/Angel City is a majority women-founded ownership group that has been awarded the exclusive right to bring a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team to Los Angeles. The group is led by Academy Award-winning actress and activist Natalie Portman, technology venture capitalist Kara Nortman, media and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, and tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian. Among the group’s investors are actors Eva Longoria and Uzo Aduba, as well as eleven former US Women’s National Team Southern California-based players, including Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm.
“We’re proud to represent WFC LA/Angel City, an extremely accomplished and passionate group, in this game-changing project,” said O’Melveny partner and Sports Industry Group co-chair Charles (Chuck) Baker, who is leading the firm’s work for the team, along with counsel Eric Geffner. “Bringing professional women’s soccer to LA is a defining moment—for the city, for the league, and for entire world of sports—and comes at a particularly important time.”
Baker added, “Having a team that is women-founded and women-led is, unfortunately, too rare in today’s sports industry. WFC LA/Angel City is breaking the mold of professional team ownership and hopes to create a model for real change in the industry while simultaneously promoting the continued growth of women’s soccer and women’s sports generally.”
Along with Baker and Geffner, the O’Melveny team representing WFC LA/Angel City includes partner Chris Del Rosso, special counsel Scott Pink, counsel Aaron Cha, and associates Alexandra Piarino and Luisa Lizoain.
O’Melveny’s Sports Industry Group handles many of the legal matters that draw coverage in sports pages everywhere—billion-dollar acquisitions and dispositions of professional sports teams; cutting-edge media and licensing arrangements; stadium development, financings and naming rights; sponsorships and endorsements; strategic joint ventures; and high profile litigation and other disputes.
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The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) issued the following press release:
National Women's Soccer League Awards Expansion Team Rights To Los Angeles
Expansion Group Hails from Hollywood, Technology, Venture, Media and Sports Sectors Including Fourteen Former US Women's National Team Players
Consortium Formally Collaborates with LA84 Foundation as Social Impact Partner to Direct Community Relations Efforts for Long Term
LOS ANGELES, July 21, 2020 -- The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) today announced that a majority woman-founded group led by Academy Award-winning actress and activist Natalie Portman, technology venture capitalist Kara Nortman, media and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, and tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian who led the investment through his firm Initialized Capital, has secured the exclusive right to bring a professional women's soccer team to Los Angeles to kick off in Spring 2022.
While the team's official name and venue partner will be announced before the end of the year, the group has formally coined itself "Angel City" in honor of its planned home in Los Angeles.
Led by consortium President Julie Uhrman, the founding investor group includes Serena Williams and daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr., actors Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, and Eva Longoria, late night talk show host Lilly Singh, former US Women's National Team players including twelve representing Southern California including Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Rachel Buehler, Shannon Boxx, Amanda Cromwell, Lorrie Fair Allen, Ronnie Fair Sullins, Joy Fawcett, Angela Hucles, Shannon MacMillan, Tisha Venturini Hoch, and Saskia Webber, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA World Cup Champions Lauren Cheney Holiday and Abby Wambach, author and activist Glennon Doyle, Netflix VP Original Content Cindy Holland, tech entrepreneur and filmmaker Casey Neistat, Founding Board Member of Baby2Baby, Sabina Nathanson, Media Executive David Nathanson, Baby2Baby Co-President Norah Weinstein, and Bad Robot President and COO Brian Weinstein.
In response to fan-driven demand for an NWSL team in the region and inspiration from the USWNT 2019 performance on-and off-the-field, the founders undertook the endeavor to secure the rights to the group: "We took this as an opportunity to listen, talk to players, union reps, presidents and owners to develop a totally new playbook of how to build a professional sports team where mission and capital, entertainment and sport, were equally important." - Founder Kara Nortman.
"The growth trajectory of the NWSL is incredibly exciting, but we also need to be strategic and thoughtful about how fast we expand and the communities we partner with. We've long sought the right partner in LA considering the NWSL fanbase that already exists in the region and the massive interest in women's soccer in general. Those factors, along with an incredible ownership group make this an ideal situation and we couldn't be more thrilled to move forward." - NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird.
"I am proud to be a part of this wonderful group working to bring a women's professional football club to Los Angeles. Chiefly, because I'm a fan of the game, but also because I believe there is massive potential for the sport and it's been undervalued by too many people for far too long. As someone who spends hours kicking around a football with my two-year-old daughter, I want her to have a front row seat to this revolution. I'm personally investing on behalf of my family because creating more opportunities in women's sports is important to my wife and me, and we want to be a part of making a better future for our daughter." – Lead Founding Investor, Alexis Ohanian.
The founders are energized by the opportunity to work with the NWSL to build a club from scratch, to do things differently and to drive further dialogue about the issues impacting the LA community, as well as those that have negatively impacted women's sports for decades: "We come together with a collective passion for bringing about change. Change for our players, change for our fans, and change for our community. Change that begins today. In addition to announcing the rights to an LA NWSL team, we are thrilled to officially announce our partnership with the LA84 Foundation to help us build out our community relations foundation from the very start. To kick off our relationship, WFC LA/Angel City is now a formal supporter of the Play Equity Fund. The Play Equity Fund is committed to leveling the playing field to help ensure that all kids across Los Angeles have access and the opportunity to experience the transformational power of sport." - Founder & President, Julie Uhrman.
"In 2014, we established the Play Equity Fund, the only nonprofit focused on Play Equity as a social justice issue. The Play Equity Fund is committed to driving access to sports for underserved communities, including communities of color, girls, the physically challenged and developmentally disabled. We couldn't be more excited to partner with this incredible group of women upon the launch of their new undertaking. They are dedicated to making a positive impact for those who need it most." -Renata Simril, President & CEO of the LA84 Foundation.
The founders and owners also understand the role that sport can play to help amplify critically important issues in our society, from social justice to gender equity to equal access to sport, and beyond: "Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group. I am thrilled by the opportunity to partner with this incredible group of people to bring a professional women's soccer team to Los Angeles. Together, we aim to build not only a winning team on the field, but also to develop a passionately loyal fan base. We also hope to make a substantive impact on our community, committing to extending access to sports for young people in Los Angeles through our relationship with the LA84 Foundation. Sports are such a joyful way to bring people together, and this has the power to make tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere." - Founder, Natalie Portman.
This announcement would not have been possible without the unwavering support from local Los Angeles community organizations, including the @NWSL_LA fans, more than 10,000 young aspiring athletes who call Angel City their home and soccer fans around the globe.