Meg Whitman arrived in Cincinnati hoping to make an impression.
It was 1979 and she just took a job at Procter & Gamble after graduating from the Harvard Business School. Living at Riverview Place in Mount Adams, one of her first duties was designing shampoo lids.
Things have changed since then.
Now it’s 2019 and Whitman is one of the most powerful business leaders in the country. Once a brand assistant with Procter & Gamble, she’s now on the corporation’s Board of Directors. Her resume reads like one career-defining role after another:
- CEO of Quibi (the mobile-only content platform launches in April)
- Former President and CEO, Ebay Inc.
- Former CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
- Former President, Hewlett-Packard Company
- An executive at The Walt Disney Company
- Sits on the P&G and Dropbox Board of Directors
- National Board Chair, Teach for America
But Monday morning’s press conference centered on another business opportunity: owning a soccer team.
Sitting alongside controlling owner Carl H. Lindner III on the 41st floor of the Great American Tower, Whitman was introduced as FC Cincinnati’s newest managing owner. She officially became an owner on Nov. 27 after the MLS Board of Governors approved her family’s investment in the club.
Whitman’s newest role is an opportunity to join a leadership group determined to bring professional sports championships to the Queen City.
“We think the future is very bright here with the right sport, the right town, the right ownership group and, clearly, people in Cincinnati love soccer,” Whitman said during her introductory press conference. “That’s what you look for in a market, so we’re thrilled to be partners. I’ll do everything I can to be successful.”
She said joining FCC came naturally.
When she and her husband, Dr. Griffith R. Harsh IV, were interested in investing in a sports franchise, they wanted to join an ownership group in a rising sport, in a great city with fantastic leadership and a bright future. The Orange and Blue checked all the boxes.
“Carl and I have been around the block enough to know you only want to be in business with people that you like and respect,” Whitman said. “We just got this sort of sense this was going to be a good partnership. We got along and see the world in similar ways. We just thought this feels like the right thing and the right ownership group for us.”
New investment arrives at the right time for FC Cincinnati.
Steel beams are rising at the West End Stadium site while the Orange and Blue sign new players for their second MLS season. The Mercy Health Training Center is finished, and the club can now maximize the resources afforded them at the Milford facility.
Once the new stadium opens in 2021, it’ll become the standard for soccer-specific stadiums in this country – just like the new practice facility is to other training centers in MLS.
Monday’s press conference was four years and two days removed from FCC’s first-ever roster unveiling. Think about everything that’s happened since and what’s to come.
For a club that became MLS-official 18 months ago, Bloomberg recently valued it at $500 Million. It doesn’t take a lot of business experience to know that value will increase as this club’s history expands.
“This is not, ‘Add water and a tree grows,’” Whitman said. “This is a long-term investment.”
FC Cincinnati have already shown a short-term growth explosion, rooted in grand ambitions that focus on the long-term. This new investment is just another step in the team’s transcendence, and an investment by Whitman into a product ready to take off.
“What I like about FC Cincinnati is it is an early-stage startup,” she said. “There are so many things unknown, things that need to be figured out. Bringing together the experiences of Carl and the (Farmer family) and others to just figure out what the right decision is … I think is part of the fun of an early-stage product.”