Merritt Paulson | Owner
Merritt Paulson is the Owner of the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer (MLS), Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), and T2 (Portland Timbers2) of MLS NEXT Pro.
Paulson has provided more than $130 million in private funding for renovations at Providence Park. The first renovation took place in 2011, converting Providence Park into soccer-specific venue ahead of the Timbers inaugural MLS season. The second renovation was a privately funded transformation of more than $85 million, spanning over 20 months, which included extensive renovations and improvements throughout the stadium. Most notably, the project included the addition of 4,000 new seats as part of a three-tiered eastside expansion, increasing the capacity to 25,218, which relaunched in June 2019. Additionally, Paulson has invested over eight figures into the Timbers practice facility in Beaverton, Oregon.
Under Paulson’s leadership, the Timbers sold out all of their regular-season home games in their first nine seasons prior to the Covid pandemic, while developing the region’s sporting landscape by creating one of the most authentic and exciting in-game experiences in sports. On the field, the club celebrated its first championship in 2015 as the Timbers defeated Columbus Crew SC, 2-1, in MLS Cup. Since then, Portland has returned to MLS Cup twice (2018, 2021) and won the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament. The club has been one of the most successful teams in MLS over the last decade, making seven playoff appearances (2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) with four appearances in the Western Conference final (2013, 2015, 2018, 2021) and three Western Conference Championships (2015, 2018, 2021).
Founded in 2012, Thorns FC built an initial season ticket base of over 8,000 fans and averaging 13,320 per game in the club’s first season in 2013, establishing a cornerstone fan base in the NWSL and globally among women’s professional sports. In the club’s first nine seasons with fans, Portland led the NWSL in attendance eight times with average attendance increases across the first seven seasons, including a record-breaking attendance average of 20,098 in 2019. The Thorns success was not limited to the business side as the team went on to secure the NWSL championship in its first season, adding a second championship in 2017, while becoming the first team in league history to win a third title in 2022, securing a total of eight trophies in its first 10 seasons.
Under Paulson, the organization also continues to lead the way in the community, establishing its Stand Together Week initiative in 2012, as part of its broader Stand Together community outreach platform. Since 2012, Stand Together Week has mobilized 6,875 volunteers to provide the Portland metro area with 22,464 hours of service at more than 302 events benefiting youth, women and the environment. One of the biggest success stories in 2022 for the club, led by Paulson, was the PTFC For Peace charity match on April 27, which was played in front of a crowd of 16,921 fans at Providence Park. This historic mixed teams, U.S. first division charity match helped raise a total of $579,448, which included a $100,000 donation from the club, for UNICEF’s relief efforts in Ukraine with the help of fans and partners.
In 2016, Paulson was a recipient of the Governors’ Gold Award in Oregon, an honor that pays tribute to the individuals, companies, organizations and communities that have contributed to the greatness of the state. Paulson was also awarded the Slats Gill Award for Sportsperson of the Year in 2011 by the Oregon Sports Awards. With the honor, he became just the second non-coach to be so honored in the history of the award, the first since Harry Glickman of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1970.
Before assuming ownership of the Timbers in 2007, Paulson was an executive at NBA Entertainment in New York, where he helped launch and develop NBA-TV and had responsibility for both marketing and business development efforts of NBA-TV and NBA LEAGUE PASS. He first moved to New York to join HBO on Demand and was part of the team that launched the first premium subscription video on-demand service.
In addition to serving on the board of the Bobolink Foundation, Paulson recently finished his full term on the board of the Nature Conservancy in Oregon. Beyond board work, Merritt and his wife Heather regularly contribute to a number of non-profits in the region with a primary focus on conservation and education. He also currently serves on the board of the Orianne Society, a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians and the ecosystems they inhabit.
Paulson graduated from Hamilton College with a B.A. in English and earned his Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. He and his wife, Heather, reside in the Portland area with their two daughters.