Something that was speculated nearly one year ago has now become a reality. Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts is part of a group of investors that has agreed to buy 10% of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.
The deal is worth $8.5 million. The latest valuation of the women’s basketball franchise was $85 million. The Sky have now added six new investors, most of whom are women, to their ownership group.
Ricketts branching out from baseball to basketball
The Ricketts family reached an agreement with the Tribune Company to buy the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and 25% of Comcast SportsNet Chicago in 2009. Ricketts joined her three brothers, Tom, Pete and Todd, on the board of the Cubs organization.
Laura Ricketts (center) (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP Photo)
The Ricketts have seen much success as MLB franchise owners, including winning the 2016 World Series. They have also implemented multiple renovations to Wrigley Field, including the upcoming retail DraftKings Sportsbook at the ballpark.
Laura is well known for her community outreach efforts. She is a board member of the Housing Opportunities for Women organization. She is also a significant figure in the LGBTQ+ community. Her ownership stake in the Cubs makes her the first openly gay owner of a major-league sports franchise. She was also inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2013.
Ricketts reportedly had preliminary discussions with the Sky about becoming a potential investor back in July 2022. Team owner Michael Alter said they were open to adding investors after winning the WNBA Finals in 2021.
Sky adds diverse cast to ownership group
According to a report from Sportico, Chicago Sky owners sold a 10% share in the team to the new ownership group at an $85 million valuation. That is the second highest in the WNBA behind the Seattle Storm. New investors include Ricketts, Footlocker CEO Mary Dillon and the current chief strategy and impact officer at the Obama Foundation, Tina Tchen.
Last summer, Alter said he was engaging in multiple conversations with interested parties but declined to comment on who. However, he did tell the Chicago Tribune that Ricketts would make an ideal investor for the team.
“Hypothetically, [Ricketts] is a very prominent owner of a sports team,” said Alter. “She has been a big fan of this league for a long time and has been active civically here in Chicago, which is very important to us. If she’s someone who wanted to be involved and had an interest, then we would certainly talk to her about it.”
Alter will remain the Sky’s principal owner. The WNBA’s Board of Governors still needs to approve the deal.
“The interest in general in women’s sports and the WNBA has never been greater,” Alter told the Chicago Sun-Times in May. “It continues to grow. That includes the Sky and, I’m sure, all other teams. It’s a great time to be a WNBA owner in that regard.”
Future outlook for the Chicago Sky
The Sky have begun scouting locations for their own practice facility. Part of the $8.5 million raised will go towards constructing that facility. The franchise wants to develop a space that meets the team’s needs while also benefiting the community from an engagement and economic growth standpoint.
Sky CEO/President Adam Fox says they are working to identify possible locations that would put the team close to Wintrust Arena where the squad plays. Currently, the team practices at Sachs Recreation Center, a public gym in Deerfield. Their lease there extends through the 2024 season. Meaning there may be an expectation that a potential new facility would be available at some point ahead of the 2025 season.
There are also question marks for the team on the court. Many of the key figures in their 2021 WNBA Championship run, including Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot, are gone. However, Kahleah Copper is still around and is now leading the team toward the future.
Heading into the 2023 season, many experts viewed the Sky as a fringe playoff team. According to many Illinois sports betting sites, their odds of winning it all are around +4000. Their championship hopes look bleak, with super teams like the New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces seemingly on a collision course for the Finals.
Things could get tough if the Sky continue to hover around the middle of the pack. The 2024 WNBA Draft is expected to be one of the best drafts in league history. That draft will include Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, UConn’s Paige Bueckers, LSU’s Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith, among others. The WNBA is about to get very competitive very quickly. Let’s hope the Chicago Sky can keep up.