Merritt Paulson is the Owner and Chief Executive Officer of the 2015 MLS Cup-champion Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer (MLS), Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), and T2 (Portland Timbers 2) of USL.
Named to Sports Business Journal’s exclusive “Forty Under 40” class of 2011, 2012 and 2013, Paulson’s diligent efforts – an arduous process that began in 2008 – to bring a second major league sports franchise to Portland, Oregon, and to transform Providence Park into one of the most intimate sports venues in the country came to life during the Timbers’ inaugural MLS season in 2011. Under Paulson’s leadership, the Timbers sold out all of their regular-season home games to date over their six seasons, have developed award-winning marketing campaigns and community outreach programs and transformed the region’s sporting landscape by creating one of the most authentic and exciting in-game experiences in sports and celebrating the club’s first championship in 2015 as the Timbers defeated Columbus Crew SC, 2-1, in the MLS Cup final.
In each of the past six seasons, the Timbers achieved record renewal rate on season tickets and have an Annual Membership Waiting List that numbers more than 13,000 fans.
In 2013, Paulson led a remarkable launch of Thorns FC in the NWSL’s inaugural season. By building a season ticket base of over 8,000 fans and averaging 13,320 per game, the Thorns became arguably the most successful professional women’s sports team in modern history. The Thorns success was not limited to the business side as the team went on to secure the NWSL championship in their first season. In 2016, Thorns FC built on their record attendance mark as the best-attended women’s professional sports team in the world by averaging 16,945 fans per game over the course of the season on their way to capturing their first NWSL Shield and advancing to the NWSL semifinals.
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. Among his additional honors, Paulson was awarded the Slats Gill Award for Sportsperson of the Year for 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.
Paulson graduated from Hamilton College with a B.A. in English and earned his Masters of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
From a personal standpoint, Paulson, his wife and two daughters are thrilled to live in the Portland area and are passionate outdoor enthusiasts. In addition, Paulson serves on the board of directors for the Oregon Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.