CINCINNATI – FC Cincinnati have expanded their diverse, local ownership group with the addition of California couple Meg Whitman and Dr. Griff Harsh as new managing owners after gaining approval by the Major League Soccer Board of Governors earlier today, Wednesday, Nov. 27. The family’s significant incremental capital investment will support the club’s ambitious goals, including the construction of the forthcoming West End Stadium – which is 100 percent privately financed – and the commitment to a winning team.
Additionally, FC Cincinnati CEO and controlling owner Carl H. Lindner III has appointed Whitman to serve as the club’s Alternate Governor on the MLS Board of Governors. Lindner III is the club’s Governor.
Whitman and Harsh represent the first major investors in FC Cincinnati that originate from outside the Greater Cincinnati region. The investment also represents a deeper commitment to Cincinnati for Whitman – who began her professional career at The Procter & Gamble Company’s corporate headquarters in the Queen City – as she continues to serve on P&G’s Board of Directors.
Lindner III noted, “My wife Martha and I are thrilled to welcome such accomplished professionals and philanthropists as Meg and Griff to the FC Cincinnati family,” Lindner III said. “At the heart of our ownership group is a love and connection to Cincinnati. With Meg’s background and network in our city, she and her family are a perfect fit for our club. They bring a wealth of experience and expertise in support of our ambitions and goals. We expect Meg and Griff will play a large role not only at the club level, but will also serve an influential role at the league level.”
“Cincinnati has a special place in my heart and I’m so pleased to join FC Cincinnati at this exciting juncture in the club’s history,” Whitman said. “FC Cincinnati and soccer have both already proven to be cultural forces in the market. Between the crowds at Nippert Stadium and the corporate commitments it has drawn, it’s a team with an exceptionally high ceiling. I’m looking forward to getting more deeply involved with the ownership group and helping elevate the club in the city, around the country and internationally.”
“We’re very excited to join the ownership group in Cincinnati,” Harsh said. “We’ve been interested in getting involved with Major League Soccer for several years and FC Cincinnati was the perfect opportunity to invest in a club with such great ambitions. With our connections in the city, the disruptive nature of the club and the enthusiasm around the team, we see nothing but growth opportunities ahead for the team and the sport. We’re excited to get involved with the club and the league at this point in time.”
“I am very pleased to have Meg and Griff join Carl Lindner and his partners as part of FC Cincinnati’s ownership group,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “I have known Meg for many years and look forward to her contributing her tremendous business experience as a member of our Board of Governors.”
The Raine Group, which FC Cincinnati retained in the fall of 2018 to assist in sourcing additional capital investment, facilitated the investment.
Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL is FC Cincinnati’s club counsel. O’Melveny & Myers LLP served as legal counsel to Whitman and Harsh in connection with the investment.
ABOUT MEG WHITMAN
Whitman is currently the Chief Executive Officer at Quibi, a mobile-only media technology platform built for easy, on-the-go viewing, allowing today’s leading studios and creative talent to tell original stories in an entirely new way.
Whitman is also a past CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise; former CEO and President of Hewlett-Packard Company; and was the former President and CEO of eBay Inc.
No stranger to the Queen City, Whitman began her career as a brand assistant at The Procter & Gamble Company’s Cincinnati corporate headquarters before continuing her career with advancing positions at Bain & Company, The Walt Disney Company, Stride Rite, Florists’ Transworld Delivery and Hasbro.
Joining eBay in 1998, Whitman oversaw its growth from 30 employees and $4 million in annual revenue to more than 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue 10 years later.
Whitman joined Hewlett-Packard in 2011 as President & CEO. She led the turnaround of HP and its split into two Fortune 50 companies. She then became CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprises and Chairman of HP, Inc., before stepping down as the CEO of HPE in March 2018.
In addition to her seat on P&G’s Board of Directors, Whitman is also the national board chair of Teach for America. Whitman earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and has a bachelor of arts in economics from Princeton.
ABOUT DR. GRIFF HARSH
Harsh is the Julian R. Youmans Chair in Neurological Surgery at the University of California, Davis. He previously served as associate dean for Postgraduate Education, professor of neurological surgery, and director of the Brain Tumor Center at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Prior to his arrival at Stanford, Harsh was associate professor at Harvard Medical School, the executive director of the Brain Tumor Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
Harsh earned his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, from Harvard; a masters of arts from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar; an M.D. from Harvard Medical School; and his MBA from Boston University. He is certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery.
Among Harsh’s past and present national leadership positions are roles as president of the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons; president of the Neurosurgical Society of America; chairman of the Neurosurgical Research and Education Foundation; and chairman of the ACGME Residency Review Committee for Neurosurgery.
ABOUT FC CINCINNATI
FC Cincinnati is a professional soccer team that plays in Major League Soccer, having entered the league as its 24th team in 2019. The club’s wide and diverse ownership group is led by managing owners Carl H. Lindner III; Meg Whitman and Dr. Griff Harsh; Scott Farmer; and George Joseph. MLS invited Cincinnati to the league as an expansion team in May 2018, giving the club one of the fastest run-ups to its first-division launch in league history – 277 days from invitation to its first game. Originally founded in 2015 by Lindner III and current president Jeff Berding, FCC began play in the United Soccer League (USL) in 2016. The club won the 2018 USL Regular-Season Championship in record-setting fashion, and earned postseason berths in all three of its USL seasons. In 2017, FC Cincinnati also advanced to the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a run that included victories over two MLS squads. The team currently plays its home games at the historic Nippert Stadium on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, while its $250 million, privately funded, 26,000-seat soccer-specific stadium is constructed in the West End neighborhood of Cincinnati. The new stadium is expected to open in March 2021.