Laura Ricketts, Chicago Sky in talks on possible investment

Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts has had preliminary conversations with Sky principal owner Michael Alter about becoming a potential investor in the WNBA team, multiple sources told the Tribune.

One source said Ricketts and her wife, Brooke Skinner, are considering the opportunity because it aligns with their philanthropic mission.

Since the Sky won the 2021 WNBA Finals, Alter has stated he is open to adding investors. That possibility has progressed since his offseason comments, according to a source close to the matter.

“Brooke and I would love to support the Sky in any way we can,” Ricketts told the Tribune. “We really respect, admire and appreciate all that Michael Alter has done for that team. They are one of a few (WNBA) teams that weren’t started in connection with an NBA team, and so the challenges that has had and the impact that has had on the team makes Michael’s investment all the more impressive and I really appreciate that.”

Alter did not confirm any conversations with Ricketts have occurred but did offer thoughts on why she would be an ideal investor.

“Hypothetically, she is a very prominent owner of a sports team,” Alter told the Tribune. “She has been a big fan of this league for a long time and has been active civically here in Chicago, which is very important to us. If she’s someone who wanted to be involved and had an interest, then we would certainly talk to her about it.”

One source said talks between the two owners are “still at the preliminary stage” with details of Ricketts’ potential involvement still being discussed.

The sides are already in business after the Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network reached a multiyear deal with the Sky in May for the cable channel to broadcast a select number of Sky games. A source close to the situation said Ricketts was heavily involved in pushing that deal through.

Since joining the WNBA in 2006, the Sky have had a reputation for not providing the same resources as other teams in the league. They don’t own a private training facility, and practices are conducted at Sachs Recreation Center in Deerfield — 30 miles from Wintrust Arena.

Sky coach and general manager James Wade said the team has added more accommodations for players every year since he was hired in 2018. Over the offseason, the Sky added features such as post-practice meals, massages, customized ice tubs and expanded coaching and training staffs.

Wade said the team purchased a $50,000 AlterG anti-gravity treadmill at Sachs Recreation Center and now has its own weight room at the practice facility.

“We just feel taken care of,” Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot said. “It can be simple things like a massage or food after practice. That is so important for us as athletes, and we never had access to that before. Other teams have kitchens at their practice facilities and it’s something you can take for granted, but eating is such an important thing for what we do.

“We don’t have time to take care of ourselves and they heard that. They have done an amazing job and we have felt that big difference.”

Alter said if the Sky were to add investors, it wouldn’t be because of a lack of financial resources but instead to help drive up the value of the franchise.

“I’ve been working to build this league for 17 years,” Alter said. “One of the things that I’ve been very focused on is demonstrating how the value of the franchises has increased over the years. One way to validate that is to go out and raise capital with third parties at a certain value.”

Sources told the Tribune that talks are too early for Ricketts’ potential role with the Sky to be determined. However, the consensus is she would fit the league mold of a possible investor.

Across the WNBA, the importance of ownership representing the league’s stance on human rights is pronounced. In 2020, players campaigned against former Atlanta Dream owner and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., after she spoke out against the Black Lives Matter movement. She later sold the team and lost the Senate race to Raphael Warnock, whom the players advocated for, wearing “Vote Warnock” T-shirts to their games.

Ricketts and Skinner have been huge advocates for LGBTQ+ rights in Chicago. The WNBA features members of that community, including Sky guards Vandersloot and her wife, Allie Quigley. Sky players who spoke to the Tribune reiterated their desire to have members of ownership align with the league’s social values.

“It’s really important,” forward Azurá Stevens said. “When you do business with good people, it starts at the top and trickles down to the bottom. It’s super important to have someone who is aligned with women deserving more because if they don’t feel that way, this isn’t the right room for them.”

Chicago Tribune reporter Meghan Montemurro contributed.

James Kay is a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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