Investing in Sky was easy for Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts.
He felt aligned with the league's mission and with Sky's longtime owners Michael Alter and John Rogers. After taking part in the investment conversations for more than a year, Ricketts became an official addition to Sky's ownership group last week.
Her desire to invest is tied to the impact she's seen athletes have in the WNBA and at the collegiate level.
“I bet you watched the women's NCAA Tournament and saw how incredible it was,” Ricketts told the Sun-Times. “In the end, there was a bit of controversy about race and so on. That's a great conversation to have. The fact that women's basketball inspires those conversations and the perspectives that are shared, and the women who share them are so strong, show all sides, show leadership, I think is really cool.
Ricketts was referring to the NCAA championship game between LSU and Iowa and the dialogue that ensued after NCAA champion Angel Reese mimicked the celebration of Caitlin Clark's Wood Award winner. Unlike Clark, Reese's actions were met with fierce backlash.
Ricketts added that the same philosophy can be applied to the WNBA. Beyond their talent, WNBA and NCAA women's basketball players have a proven level of cultural relevance and use it to show the world what one can do.
“I want to invest in that,” Ricketts said. “I want to help it gain momentum and add my share to that growing momentum and what it represents for everyone culturally.”
Ricketts admits that he is just starting to study the WNBA from an operational point of view. He has expressed his desire to share details about the Cubs' experience in ticketing, merchandise, and marketing to help Sky strategize in the future.
He knows only a few things from the Cubs and Major League Baseball are transferable to the Sky and WNBA, but says there are aspects the organizations and leagues can learn from one another.
Sky chairman and co-owner Nadia Rawlinson told the Sun-Times last week that the new investors, including Ricketts, have made a long-term commitment to the franchise. Ricketts has followed in the footsteps of those who have led the way since the franchise was founded in 2006.
“I don't want to be cocky,” Ricketts said. “They have been in this business for a long time. They know women's basketball much better than I do. So, I will learn from them too. But I can imagine new marketing, merchandising, ticketing strategy stuff.”
Ricketts said he had made himself and his staff fully available for Sky to meet in any way they found useful.
Before Ricketts invested in Sky, the franchise was the official broadcast partner of the Marquee Sports Network, which is operated by the Cubs. Ricketts played a key role in driving that partnership.
The new investor group bought a 10% stake in Sky for $8.5 million. It's possible the franchise could add another investor in three-time NBA champion and Chicago native Dwyane Wade.
According to multiple sources, Wade has expressed interest in investing in Sky and has discussed it with members of the ownership team.
The WNBA is in a transitional place with its media deal with ESPN ending in 2025, the need for expansion and charter travel to address and a new CBA on the horizon. Investors like Ricketts are critical to the league's continued growth.
“There are a lot of challenges that they have to overcome to get ahead on all fronts,” said Ricketts. “When I said that, I didn't have one thing in particular in mind. I think partly how the league will develop.