The Seattle Sounders are one of the city’s most beloved sports franchises. Upon joining the MLS in 2009, the club immediately began setting attendance records. In the following years, success on the field followed. The Sounders have won the U.S. Open Cup four times, the MLS Cup twice, and were the first MLS club to win the CONCACAF Champions League.
With all this success, you might be wondering just who owns the Sounders. In the post below, we’ll dive into the Sounders’ ownership and also analyze just how much the team is worth.
Who Owns the Seattle Sounders?
The Seattle Sounders are majority owned by Adrian Hanauer. He was joined by comedian Drew Carey, Paul Allen, and Hollywood producer Joe Roth as the club’s original ownership group in 2007.
Today, Hanauer remains the majority owner. Joe Roth left the club’s ownership while Drew Carey and Paul Allen’s estate retain their ownership stake. In 2019, the Sounders announced a series of new minority owners that include:
- Terry Myerson: Microsoft executives
- Russell Wilson and Ciara: Former Seahawks quarterback and musician
- Macklemore: Hip hop star from Seattle (also a minority owner of the Kraken)
- Satya Nadella: Microsoft CEO
- Amy Hood: Microsoft CFO
- Joe Belfiore: Microsoft executive
- Soma Somasegar: Director of Madrona Venture Group
- Chee Chew: Twilio Chief Product Officier
- David Nathanson: FOX Sports Media Group
- Brian McAndrews: Former CEO of Pandora
- Mark Agne: Managing Partner at Softbank
Other minority owners include Tod Leiweke (another minority owner of the Kraken), Ken Griffey Jr., and Peter Tomozawa.
Who is Adrian Hanauer?
Adrian Hanauer is a 57-year-old businessman with a long history in Seattle. His family owned Pacific Coast Feather Company, which has its headquarters in the SoDo area not far from Lumen Field, where the Sounders now play.
After graduating from the University of Washington he established several businesses, the largest of which eventually became Northwest Framing. It has several brands today that include Museum Quality Framing, Frame Central, and Beard’s Framing. He also was an early investor in companies like Amazon and aQuantive (purchased by Microsoft).
Shortly after the turn of the century, Hanauer turned his attention to soccer. In 2002 he became the managing partner of the Seattle Sounders, a team that played in the USL. The USL was a tier below the MLS, but Hanauer had ambitions on a larger target: he wanted to bring the MLS to Seattle. Hanauer lobbied for an expansion team that would begin play in 2006, but Salt Lake City was ultimately selected.
To join the MLS, Salt Lake City’s ownership paid a $7.5 million expansion fee. In 2005 another expansion franchise was approved for Toronto, with the fee moving northward to $10 million. Then in 2007, the San Jose Earthquakes were reactivated for a reported $20 million fee.
Hanauer missing out on past expansion selections was proving costly as the MLS was increasingly asking for larger fees. With the amount skyrocketing, he was no longer able to foot the expansion fee without finding co-owners. Hanauer added Seahawks owner Paul Allen, Hollywood producer Joe Roth, and comedian Drew Carey to draw enough capital to pay the MLS an expansion fee that had risen to $30 million.
While missing out on getting an expansion team made the Soundres more than three times more expensive than what Hanauer initially wanted to pay, his belief that Seattle would support an MLS team has paid him back handsomely.
How Much Are the Seattle Sounders Worth Today?
The Seattle Sounders are worth at least $680 million. That valuation comes from a sale of between 3% and 5% of the club that valued the team at $680 million in 2022. However, since that sale was for a minority stake in the club, it’s likely Adrian Hanauer’s controlling stake in the club would be valued at a significantly higher level.
As of late 2022, there have been two MLS clubs that recorded sales at higher valuations:
- In September 2021 D.C. United was valued at $730 million in a sale.
- And in March 2020 a 10% piece of Los Angeles FC was acquired in a deal that valued the club at $700 million.
At the start of 2023, Forbes valuation of MLS teams ranked the Sounders as the 8th most valuable franchise, valuing the club at $660 million. That’s about 14% above the MLS average. Another sports business website, Sportico, ranks the Sounders as the fourth most valuable MLS club at $725 million. If we had to pick which of these valuations is more accurate, we’d go with Sportico since ownership in the Sounders recently traded hands above Forbes’ estimates.
While Seattle was previously named the MLS’ most valuable club mid-last decade, there are a number of reasons why the Sounders haven’t kept the crown of the league’s most valuable club:
- TV Rights: The MLS’ new TV deal with Apple TV is worth $250 million annually, which is four times the league’s previous rights deal. However, the Sounders were one of the few MLS teams with a lucrative local TV contract that goes away with this new deal.
- Attendance: The Sounders used to have the league’s largest attendance by a wide margin but today clubs like Atlanta and Charlotte FC have passed the Sounders’ attendance.
- Stadium: The Sounders play in Lumen Field, which is home to several teams like the Seahawks. Many newer MLS teams like Austin have built soccer-specific stadiums that give them additional revenue opportunities. The Sounders’ lease at Lumen Field ends in 2028, but it is doubtful they’d pursue a soccer-specific stadium.
- Profits: Profit estimates of MLS teams are a lot of guesswork. That being said, after estimating the Sounders were recording $10 million in annual operating income 2015, Forbes estimates they made just $1 million in operating profits in 2022. However, the Sounders have some upcoming revenue sources such as their 10-year deal with Providence Hospital that’s worth a reported $100 million.
What’s Adrian Hanauer’s Net Worth?
Adrian Hanauer is worth somewhere between $250 million and $500 million. It’s likely the majority of his net worth would come from increases in the value of the Sounders.
If you search for estimates of Adrian Hanauer’s worth online, most results are … Well, laughable. Many put his net worth at just $5 million. However, a 25% stake in the Sounders alone would be worth at least $170 million. With MLS rules requiring controlling owners to have a 35% stake in the club, Hanauer’s minimum stake in the Sounders would be worth $240 million.
While Hanauer’s exact ownership percentage has never been publicly released, even owning a bit more than 35% of the club could push his net worth up quite a bit. For example, if Hanauer owned 50% of the Sounders, his stake would be worth at least $340 million! Today the Sounders are valued at 2,200% higher than the expansion fee that was paid to bring the team to Seattle. Simply put, buying the Sounders has been an epicly good investment.
It’s likely Hanauer’s holdings outside the Sounders are smaller than the value of his ownership in the team. While his other business successes that included early investments in Amazon and aQuantive are impressive, in 2007 the $30 million MLS expansion fee was high enough Hanauer had to seek co-owners.
In 2017, Hanauer’s family did sell their stake in Pacific Coast Feather, and that likely netted a large payday and more liquidity. While terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported the company had sales of $265 million in 2015. With companies selling in the furniture industry at an average multiple of .88 annual sales, we can estimate Pacific Coast Feather sold for north of $200 million. The proceeds of this sale would have been distributed to numerous family members.