Lyon parent company acquires NWSL's Reign FC

(Reuters) - OL Groupe, the parent company of French Ligue 1 team Olympique Lyonnais, has completed the takeover of National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) franchise Reign FC in a deal worth $3.51 million, OL Groupe and Reign said on Thursday.

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OL Groupe will hold an 89.5% stake in Reign, whose leading player is United States World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe.

Former Reign investor-operator Bill Predmore will hold 7.5% of the share capital, while four-times NBA champion Tony Parker, a Lyon brand ambassador in the U.S., will have a 3% stake.

Reign, a founding member of the NWSL, have reached the playoffs in the last two seasons and their former head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, was in October named head coach of the world champion U.S. Women’s National Team.

Lyon owner Jean-Michel Aulas told a news conference that promoting competitive women’s soccer has long been a priority.

“We’re here of course in a very humble way, but we’re here to win things,” he said.

Rapinoe, the Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner at this year’s World Cup, praised the new partnership.

“From a philosophical perspective, to have a shared vision and desire and belief in the potential in the future of the women’s game, not only here in America but worldwide, I think, is vital,” she said.

The Lyon women’s team is among the strongest in the sport, having won six Champions League titles including a record four in a row from 2016 to 2019.

They have also won 13 domestic league titles and have some of the sport’s biggest names in their squad, including England’s Lucy Bronze and France’s Wendie Renard.

"We had a duty to ensure that the new owner shared our commitment to the sport, to our league, to our players, to our partners, to our fans, and to our region," Predmore said in a statement here.

“In OL Groupe we have found a kindred spirit. They share our beliefs, our passions, and our ambitions for building a truly extraordinary soccer club.”

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Ed Osmond