NWSL board approves changes to Spirit ownership structure

Changes to the structure of the Washington Spirit’s management group were approved Saturday, a move that ultimately could clear the way for Y. Michele Kang to assume the role of the Spirit’s controlling owner.

The Board of Governors for the National Women’s Soccer League unanimously approved the changes for the Washington Soccer Properties ownership group, which manages the Washington Spirit.

The battle over the NWSL-champion Spirit became has been contentious since October, when controlling owner Steve Baldwin announced he was selling his share of the team.

Fans of the Spirit called on controlling owner Steve Baldwin to relinquish control after coach Richie Burke was fired for violating the league’s antiharassment policy. The Spirit’s players also released a collective statement calling on Baldwin to sell and throwing support behind Kang.

Baldwin announced in October he’d sell his share of the team. Kang, who owns a stake of the team along with Baldwin and founder Bill Lynch, offered to buy the team outright but Baldwin rebuffed the deal.

“Let us be clear. The person we trust is Michele,” the players wrote in a statement in October. “She continuously puts players’ needs and interests first. She listens. She believes that this can be a profitable business and you have always said you intended to hand the team over to female ownership. That moment is now.”

The Spirit also had a number of investors with non-equity positions. As such, those investors were not voting members of the Washington Soccer Properties’ board.

The NWSL Board of Governors approved the conversion of some of those investors to equity shareholders, which gives them voting rights. The board also approved the transfer of some equity stakes to Kang.

The WSP must now determine whether Kang has sufficient support of the voting members to become the controlling owner, the league said Saturday.

“Our priority is determining what is in the best interest of the NWSL, Washington Spirit, its players, and the D.C. soccer community. We believe Michele is fully committed to elevating this club and delivering for its players and it is now a matter for WSP shareholders to determine who holds a controlling interest,” the NWSL board said in a prepared statement. “We are committed to allowing the required ownership process to be resolved in the appropriate, orderly manner. We will provide any additional updates once that process has taken place.”


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