Sky in preliminary talks with Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts and others about investing in franchise
Principal owner Michael Alter said in March the timing is perfect to add investors because the Sky have a valuable story to tell.
LOS ANGELES — Before the season, Sky principal owner Michael Alter said adding investors to the franchise was a top priority for him.
Those additions are starting to take shape, with Alter telling the Sun-Times he has begun having preliminary conversations with interested investors, including Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts. Alter declined to say whom the other parties were, but he said all the conversations were in the early stages.
‘‘When you’re out thinking about adding investors, you have to talk to people,’’ Alter said. ‘‘Laura is just one of the people we’ve talked to.’’
The Sky has no specifics regarding the amount of each investment. They simply are gauging interest from potential investors, with the top priority being to add those who align with the WNBA’s and the Sky’s values.
Still, for as much as Alter said money isn’t the top priority, the Sky and the WNBA could use more owners with sports-business experience and deep pockets like Ricketts. Take, for example, some of the new owners in the WNBA, such as Mark Davis (Las Vegas Aces), Joe and Clara Wu Tsai (New York Liberty) and Larry Gottesdeiner (Atlanta Dream). They represent a new guard of WNBA owners who are willing to put up big bucks to support their franchises.
Davis, who purchased the Aces in 2021 and also owns the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, made headlines this offseason when he confirmed he would be paying first-year Aces coach Becky Hammon more than $1 million annually.
In March, Alter said the timing was perfect for the Sky to add investors because the franchise has a valuable story to tell. The ownership group’s primary reason for moving forward now, Alter said, is to validate the value of the franchise.
Alter knows there are things the Sky can do better as an organization, but he doesn’t think they need to do anything radically different to draw free agents. He said the Sky’s culture has kept players in Chicago and attracted top free agents.
But how long will culture matter when organizations are building state-of-the-art training facilities? In May, the Seattle Storm announced the development of a performance center dedicated solely to the team. The project, which is scheduled to be completed by training camp in 2024, is being funded by the Storm’s owners and is projected to cost more than $60 million.
The Sky don’t have a private training facility at Sachs Recreation Center, a public fitness center in Deerfield. The recreation center installed a new court with the Sky’s logo after they won their first WNBA title last fall. It previously had the logo of the Bulls, who trained there in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
The Sky purchased a state-of-the-art anti-gravity treadmill last offseason. Vice president of basketball operations and strength and conditioning coach Ann Crosby uses it nearly every day with the players. When Allie Quigley was working through an early-season injury, it was a valuable resource in helping the three-point champ return to the court. It helps track everything from the weight players put on their knees, to how they can improve their running form.
Marquee Sports Network and the Sky announced a multiyear broadcast partnership in May, so a relationship between the Cubs and Sky already has been fostered. As a Sky investor, Ricketts could bring ideas such as those that helped turn the Cubs around.
The Cubs were ‘‘lovable losers’’ when the Ricketts family bought the team from Tribune Co. in 2009. Though they have struggled recently, they had a string of successful years, culminating in a World Series title in 2016.
The Ricketts family has also remade the area around Wrigley Field, including the construction of a hotel across from the ballpark, the development of Gallagher Way and plans to add a sportsbook to the ballpark.
Alter was adamant these conversations with investors don’t reflect any change in his long-term commitment to the Sky and the WNBA. But it’s clear the Sky need help if they want to keep up with new ownership around the league.
‘‘I’m as deeply involved and engaged as ever,’’ Alter said. ‘‘I don’t see that changing any time soon.’’