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Michele Kang lifts trophy with Lyon as official sale looms; Spirit, Reign remain mum

The Washington Spirit say they have no comment even as owner Michele Kang is seen with Lyon women’s team and mentioned by name by Lyon owner John Textor

EM Dash-USA TODAY Sports

Last December, American John Textor bought a controlling stake in Olympique Lyonnias, which put question marks in the future of both the National Women’s Soccer League side, OL Reign, and potentially the D1 Arkema Lyon women’s side. The Equalizer did some preliminary reporting last month on the rumored re-organization and potential sale of the women’s side for Lyon.

There has been no official statement announced on the rumored sale of the Olympique Lyonnais women’s side to current Washington Spirit owner Michele Kang, but viewers of Saturday’s Coupe de France Féminine — which Lyon won, 2-1 over PSG — were surprised to not only see Kang present, but also get a medal postgame. The victors also made it a point to drag Kang over to be a part of the trophy lifting celebrations. 

The initial trophy lift was done by captain Wendie Renard and an emotional Jean-Michel Aulas, the former Lyon president of 36 years drove the women’s side to 15 league titles, and a record eight UEFA Champions League triumphs in the past 12 years. This past December, it was announced that Aulas would remain in his position as president for another three years following the sale of the European giant to American John Textor. That, however, changed quickly with an announcement this week that Aulas would step down.

In the past week, Textor held his first public press conference as the majority owner. His responses to questions there suggest the sale of the Lyon women’s side is a done deal. At one point, he talked about timelines when the OL Groupe board decided to both restructure the women’s program and when the final “documentation” was approved.

“On April 3rd, there was an unanimous vote on the board of directors, including every appointee of Jean-Michel in favor of the proposed restructuring of the women’s program,” Textor said. “On April 13th, because there were changes evolving in final documentation, there was another full discussion, and unanimous vote on the board of directors. And on our most recent meeting, which was the Friday in question, when we also made decisions on our relationship with Jean-Michel, there was again, an unanimous vote including all appointees of Jean-Michel on the board of directors.”

As he continued to answer, Textor’s words made it seem like the sale with Kang had been completed by using the past tense: “[Jean-Michel’s] team worked quite actively, to get documentation done for the deal with Michele Kang. There’s a lot involved because you’re talking about shared services, a club that has operated in a certain way for so long across both the men and the women’s side with so many shared services, not only from facilities, but from people and medical. There’s a lot of work to be done on this. And everybody on Jean-Michele’s team was working very hard to meet the timelines that Michelle [Kang] needed.”

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the price of the sale of the Lyon women’s side was expected to be €50 million (about $54.4 million currently) and expected that negotiations would be concluded in the coming days.

From the NWSL side of the OL Groupe’s investment, the sale of the OL Reign, which is being run by the Raine Group, has seen multiple potential buyers already show interest, according to the same report. That is good news for the Reign considering the fact that there is much up in the air with the club, including in the front office following the departure of former general manager Nick Perera in March. Textor is hoping to get another €50 million for the Seattle-based side as well.

When reached for comment last week, a Washington Spirit spokesperson said that they “don’t have anything to share at this time” regarding Kang’s purchase of Lyon women.

With all the moving pieces, there still is no clear understanding on what exactly the separation of the Lyon women’s side from the men’s side means for the defending Women’s Champions League winners, how the Spirit might be impacted with Kang potentially now owning the French side, or what the future holds for the Reign.

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