750 THE GAME STAFF
Via Portland Thorns press release:
Bhathal family becomes controlling owner, acquiring club from Peregrine Sports
PORTLAND, Ore. (January 3, 2024) – RAJ Sports, led by Lisa Bhathal Merage and Alex Bhathal, has formally assumed controlling ownership of Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League from Peregrine Sports LLC, the two groups announced today.
Lisa Bhathal Merage will serve as controlling owner and NWSL Governor, while Alex Bhathal will serve as NWSL Alternate Governor.
“This is a milestone day for our family, and for the amazing Portland community,” says Lisa Bhathal Merage. “Everything we do centers on positive impact. As fans ourselves, and as seasoned sports and real estate operators, we believe in the future of Portland and the NWSL, and in the tremendous opportunity that surrounds this iconic team. I would like to thank Merritt Paulson for believing in our vision for this club and for all that he and the Thorns have done for the growth of the NWSL and women’s soccer in this country. We look forward to working with the Timbers throughout this transition and beyond to ensure the continued success of the Thorns at Providence Park.”
A key component of its new ownership is RAJ Sports’ commitment to advancing plans for a new first-class, purpose-built, women’s soccer-specific training facility.
“Our vision is to support new, widespread growth for the Thorns, the people of Portland, and for women’s sports as a whole,” Bhathal Merage states. “Specifically, we bring deep experience in professional sports and large-scale real estate developments that create thriving community centers, making us well-positioned to deliver valuable assets that will support further growth for the players, staff, and fans.”
This acquisition represents the latest in a growing portfolio of sports team ownership positions held by the Bhathal family, who include Lisa, Alex, and their parents Raj and Marta Bhathal. The family’s additional holdings include the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, Sacramento RiverCats AAA baseball club, Stockton Kings NBA-G League club, and Kings Guard NBA 2K e-sports team. Raj currently serves as Vice Chairman and Alternate Governor of the Kings, and Alex serves on the Kings Executive Board. Over the past decade, the Bhathals have played key roles in the growth and development of the Kings, including the development of the award-winning Golden 1 Center arena, the four-star Kimpton Sawyer Hotel, and the Sacramento Downtown Commons retail and entertainment district.
Additionally, Lisa and Alex are Co-Founders and Managing Partners of Revitate, a Newport Beach-based investment firm specializing in sports, real estate, and consumer brand investments.
Thorns FC will continue to play their games at Providence Park. The team is under a lease through 2035 at the downtown Portland stadium.
“I have immense pride in what the Portland Thorns have meant for not just the NWSL, but all of women’s sports,” said Peregrine Sports Owner Merritt Paulson. “They have been both aspirational and foundational, a cornerstone franchise of the NWSL that helped grow the league to the successful place it is in today.”
“For this next phase of growth and stability, I am delighted to transfer ownership of the Thorns to Lisa Bhathal Merage and her family, whose extensive experience in sports and business make them ideal owners,” Paulson continues. “Having female-led ownership and a commitment to construct the Thorns a dedicated training facility are tremendous positives. I remain committed to the Thorns’ success at their Providence Park home, and we are excited about making our operating partnership with the Bhathals smooth and successful for all involved, and most importantly, seamless for Thorns players, staff, and fans.”
Today’s announcement follows a formal vote last week by the NWSL Board of Governors to approve the sale. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“This is an exciting day for the NWSL and our continued growth as we welcome this exceptional new ownership group,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman. “Portland Thorns FC is an iconic club, supported by some of the best fans in sports, and I’m thrilled to welcome Lisa and Alex to the NWSL board.”
ABOUT PORTLAND THORNS FC
Founded in 2012, Portland Thorns FC have set the standard for fan support and on-field success in women’s soccer since its inaugural 2013 season. One of the world’s most supported women’s soccer clubs, Portland has led the league in attendance for eight seasons and set a new club playoff attendance record last year with 25,218 fans supporting Thorns FC in the 2023 semifinal match at Providence Park.
Thorns FC have won the NWSL Championship a league-record three times (2013, 2017, 2022) and finished as runners-up in 2018. The club has made the postseason a league-high nine times and has won the NWSL Shield in 2016 and 2021.
ABOUT RAJ SPORTS
The Thorns acquisition continues an “American Dream” story for the Bhathal family. Raj Bhathal came to America from India in 1960. Shortly thereafter, he met Marta, a former collegiate athlete at UCLA, and together they launched and built an industry-leading swimwear and beachwear firm. Lisa and Alex worked their way up in the organization from the factory floor to roles as co-CEOs, leading the company’s growth globally, technologically, and through strong brand partnerships with some of the most recognized names in the apparel industry. The resulting growth allowed the Bhathals to successfully exit the company in 2006. Lisa and Alex subsequently formed RAJ Capital as their first investment platform, and have further expanded and diversified their business and professional pursuits to include Revitate and other ventures.
LISA BHATHAL MERAGE (GOVERNOR)
Founder, RAJ Capital
Chief Impact Officer & Managing Partner, Revitate
Lisa Merage serves as Managing Partner and Chief Impact Officer of Revitate, a diversified investment platform supporting high-potential strategies in real estate, sports, and consumer brands built upon the legacy and success of the RAJ Capital family investment office.
Along with her family, Lisa is co-owner of Sacramento Basketball Holdings LLC which owns the Sacramento Kings (NBA), Golden 1 Center, the Downtown Commons entertainment district, and other subsidiaries including the Sacramento RiverCats (AAA Baseball), Stockton Kings (G-League) and Kings Guard (NBA2k).
RAJ Capital was established after successfully selling the family’s 50-year-old women’s swimwear business, RAJ Swim to private equity. Lisa was Co-CEO of RAJ Swim from 2006-2016. In 2009, she launched LUXE by Lisa Vogel, an upscale swimwear collection sold at luxury retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. LUXE by Lisa Vogel was honored as the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim Presents “Designer of the Year” in 2012. Lisa has appeared in numerous fashion and business television segments including appearances on CBS, E! Entertainment Television, NBC, and FOX. She has participated as a panelist for BUZZ: An Executive Women’s Think Tank, and recipient of the 2015 “Women in Business” Award from the Orange County Business Journal. She was the Keynote Speaker at the event in 2016.
With a philanthropic passion for both the arts and education, Lisa is the Vice Chair of the Board of the Orange County Museum of Art as well as involved with Segerstrom Center as an Angel of the Arts. She has served as a Trustee for both Sage Hill High School and St. Mary’s IB World School, and currently sits on the Board of JSerra Catholic High School. In 2015, she was awarded the “Altruist of the Year” Award from Modern Luxury magazine. Lisa was also Chair of the Board of Gen Next, a nonprofit aimed at education reform, economic growth, and national security.
Lisa is a graduate of USC’s Marshall School of Business and holds a certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania. She is married to husband Richard Merage and resides in Newport Beach with their five boys.
ALEX BHATHAL (ALTERNATE GOVERNOR)
Founder, RAJ Capital
Executive Chairman & Managing Partner, Revitate
Executive Director, Sacramento Basketball Holdings
Alex Bhathal serves as Managing Partner and Founder of Revitate, where he leads the firm’s investment activities in opportunity zone development, workforce housing, sports-anchored real estate and is Senior Operating Partner of Rx3 Growth Partners, a consumer growth fund co-founded by NFL star Aaron Rodgers.
He is Co-owner and Executive Board Director of Sacramento Basketball Holdings which owns the Sacramento Kings (NBA), Golden 1 Center, the Downtown Commons entertainment district, and other subsidiaries including the Sacramento RiverCats (AAA Baseball), Stockton Kings (G-League) and Kings Guard (NBA2k). He has taken an active role is several critical areas including:
- Board Governance
- Corporate Strategy
- Financial Planning & Reporting
- Real Estate Development & Asset Management
- Social Impact- Kings Representative at Team Up for Change, 2023
He is a nationally recognized leader in opportunity zone development and was named “Opportunity Zone Investor of the Year” by Globe St. in 2019 and received the Orange County Business Journal’s “Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award” in 2023.
Alex is a Board Director for Compass Diversified (NYSE: CODI) and Mark IV Capital.
Alex is a longtime member of YPO and earned his B.A. from the University of California Los Angeles, M.B.A from the University of Southern California and is completing the Presidents Program in Leadership at Harvard Business School