Angel City founder Kara Nortman and former Causeway partner Jasmine Robinson are launching a new fund to invest in professional women’s sports franchises and adjacent businesses.
The Monarch Collective is looking to raise $100 million for what it believes is the first private equity fund specifically backing women’s sports. The group’s early investors include Billie Jean King and former Netflix executive Cindy Holland.
Monarch wants to lend capital and strategic expertise to businesses, teams and leagues around the world. Nortman said she’s traveled frequently as part of her involvement in Angel City and noticed increased attention on women’s sports in disparate places—from a record 42,579 fans filling a New Zealand stadium for women’s rugby to a fourth-division soccer team drawing the season’s largest crowd for a women’s club match in England.
“You’re seeing the data all over the world,” Nortman said in an interview. “And I couldn’t un-see it. It was keeping me up at night, in the same way that what led to Angel City kept me up at night eight years ago.”
Monarch will focus primarily on the most mature women’s leagues—such as the WNBA, the NWSL and England’s Women’s Super League—which Robinson said have less downside risk and more revenue potential.
“Some of these leagues have been around for a decade plus, and we’re already seeing the media rights revenue traction, which we think is a really important component,” Robinson said. “To have that high-margin media revenue really driving the flywheel, and the reach and audience expansion that comes along with it.”
Consumption of women’s sports has grown sharply in the past few years, and investment is starting to follow. NWSL valuations, for example, have jumped dramatically in the past few years, with the two latest expansion teams expected to join at fees topping $50 million. In the past week alone, Tom Brady bought into the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces and fellow NFL quarterback Matt Stafford invested in Angel City.
Nortman was one of the founding backers of Angel City FC, which joined the NWSL in 2022 and has already set records for league valuations. She is a managing partner at Upfront Ventures, LA’s largest venture capital firm, and a founding member of All Raise, a group of VCs dedicated to increased diversity among both funders and founders. Over 50% of her Upfront portfolio is led by female CEOs.
Robinson, whose father played in the NFL, was a partner at Causeway from 2017 to 2022. Prior to that she worked at Bain, the Raine Group and the San Francisco 49ers, in the NFL team’s investments and business operations division.
Investors so far include King, Holland and Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America and the first woman to serve as director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department. The fund also has a group of prominent advisors. They include Slaughter, 49ers executive Paraag Marathe, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, SoftBank exec Lydia Jett and Laela Sturdy, a managing partner at Google’s independent growth fund.
Private equity investment in sports franchises is a relatively new occurrence in major U.S. sports. In the past few years, every major league but the NFL has changed its ownership rules to let PE funds buy equity stakes in franchises. In the NWSL, which is single-entity, Arctos Sports Partners has stakes in the Utah Royals and the Portland Thorns, and Sixth Street is part of the Bay Area group in end-stage negotiations to buy an expansion franchise.
“Women’s sports investing is certainly happening in these bigger funds, but we’re just hitting this turning-point moment where you can build a real concentrated portfolio solely focused on it,” Nortman said. “Then you need to have different skillsets, not just financial engineering but also an ability to operate, and enough capital to show up and matter.”
Nortman and Robinson will be on Sportico’s Sporticast podcast later this week.