Portland Thorns and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson announced his intention to sell the NWSL club on Thursday, but not the MLS one.
Paulson has been under pressure to sell both the Thorns and the Timbers ever since allegations of sexual harassment and coercion were made against former Thorns manager Paul Riley, for which he was fired for cause in 2015.
That pressure -- from both fans and sponsors -- increased following the release of the Yates Report, which detailed systemic sexual and emotional abuse throughout the league. In addition to allegations made against Riley, the report detailed how the Portland organization sought to keep quiet the reasons for Riley's departure.
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"The past year has been a challenging one for our Club and our players," Paulson said in a press release announcing his intentions. "I regret the role our organization played in the failures identified by the investigations. Despite these challenges, the Portland Thorns have a bright future ahead and a lot left to accomplish.
"To fully realize that potential, I believe it is in best interest of the Thorns to have a new owner so that the Club can operate at the league level with a fresh voice to be a driving force for the NWSL. This has been a difficult decision for me, but I believe this is the best way to position the Thorns for continued success during this next chapter of the NWSL and the sport."
Earlier on Thursday, ESPN reported that an all-women investor group led by Melanie Strong, a former Nike executive and one of the managing partners of Next Ventures, is set to formally submit a bid to acquire a majority stake in the Thorns that would that would value the team at $60 million.
Paulson said that an ownership change for the Thorns "will not impact" his ownership of the Timbers through Peregrine Sports, the business entity that officially owns both teams. He also expressed a desire that the new owners of the Thorns will agree for the team to continue to play their home games at Providence Park.
"We are committed to continue to work collaboratively with the NWSL to ensure we find the right group to take the reins," Paulson added. "We will not rush to a decision as we want to get it right for our players, for Portland and for women's soccer."
NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman said she supported the decision to sell to sell the Thorns, who won their third league championship in October despite all the turmoil surrounding the club.
"The Thorns, its players, its dedicated fan base and the entire Portland community have played a key role in our league's first decade and are critically important to the future success of the NWSL," she said in a statement.
Paulson also announced he will be making a $1m pledge to establishing a NWSL Player Safety Office.
"I love Commissioner Berman's vision and I'm proud to seed the founding capital for the project," he said.