Former Hewlett Packard chief executive Meg Whitman, the billionaire chief executive of short-form mobile video platform Quibi, says she decided to invest in Major League Soccer team FC Cincinnati because she has a strong belief in the future growth of the city of Cincinnati and the sport of soccer in the United States.
“First, we looked at which sport,” Whitman said at a news conference on December 9. “The trends around soccer are tremendous. I really think it’s going to be the sport of the future. Second, all of the data would suggest Cincinnati is a city on the move. We get back to Cincinnati a lot. Third, the ownership group. You only want to be in business with people you like and respect. This feels like the right fit. And fourth, the team. One year on the pitch (in MLS) and they have the league’s third-highest attendance.”
Whitman and husband Dr. Griff Harsh have invested a reported $100m in FC Cincinnati, in a deal which values the team at $500m. The new equity investment will help fund the team’s construction plans, which are an approximate $285m for a new stadium and training ground.
“Meg and Griff’s investment in FC Cincinnati…well positions our club to achieve some pretty grand ambitions,” FC Cincinnati majority owner Carl Lindner III said.
Despite Whitman’s new involvement, Lindner confirmed he will not be taking a step back from running the MLS team for the foreseeable future. “My plans are to be the controlling owner for a long time,” Lindner said. “My family didn’t spend this time…and effort with the thought of selling the team quickly.”
Lindner is continuing to speak with potential investors but added that Whitman’s stake about “wraps it up.”
In 2017, Whitman was part of a group looking to bring an MLS team to Sacramento, California, but she left the bid. Sacramento has since been admitted to MLS under new leadership.
FC Cincinnati’s debut MLS season on the field, however, was anything but promising as it by far finished with the worst record in the league, winning just six of 34 games and tying six others.