Lyon have released a club statement denying a report from L’Équipe that American businesswoman Michele Kang will acquire a majority stake in their successful women’s team. The outlet reported on Wednesday that an agreement was reached several weeks ago between Lyon owner John Textor and Kang, via the ex-Fubo chairman’s investment vehicle Eagle Football – the majority shareholder of the overall parent company OL Groupe as of December of last year. The two investors, L’Équipe add, are friends and neighbours in Palm Beach in Florida.
However, whilst Lyon have confirmed that OL Groupe are currently “in talks with a number of new partners to develop their assets” in order to “reaffirm and amplify their position as the world leader in women’s football,” there is more to the story. Lyon announced in their statement that the Seattle-based OL Reign National Women’s Soccer League franchise had been put up for sale, not the club’s own women’s team based in mainland France. The sale mandate for the US club that they acquired in 2019 has been given to the Raine investment bank.
According to L’Équipe journalist Hugo Guillemet, who broke the news yesterday, any sale of OL Reign would be mandatory if the Kang acquisition of the Lyon women’s team in mainland France was genuinely on the table because Kang can’t own majority stakes in two NWSL franchises. Kang, who is the founder and CEO of health information technology company Cognosante, has held a majority stake in Washington Spirit.
“For a very long time and made concrete for three years with OL Reign, OL Groupe has already demonstrated its strong desire to create the first women’s multi-club group, based on the principle of achieving synergy across all continents. OL Groupe has always supported the idea of contributing positively to the development of women’s sport and its athletes to strive more for excellence. Olympique Lyonnais regrets this erroneous information which impacts its women’s team, its players, its image and its interests. Some confusion may have arisen following discussions that have taken place in recent days around OL Reign. Indeed, OL Groupe announces that it has given a mandate to sell its NWSL franchise to the investment bank Raine group. Olympique Lyonnais is happy and proud to have been able to build new foundations for OL Reign, to have contributed to its sporting success (shield winner and semi-finalist of the NWSL 2022), but also to have repatriated the team in Seattle with its fans and community, as OL Groupe committed to when it was acquired in 2019.”
GFFN | Bastien Cheval