In this day and age, owning a sports franchise can be a billion-dollar endeavour reserved exclusively for the super-rich. It’s come to a point where many teams are owned by entire companies. However, there are certain individuals who can shoulder such extravagant investments. Many of them find themselves in the ranks of Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans. These multi-billionaires own teams from all major sports leagues, from the NHL to the Premier League.
The cumulative net worth of the top ten richest American sports team owners adds up to just over $60 billion. That can buy a lot of soccer balls and hockey pucks. But while these men have the financial means to back up their team, many of them started out as strangers to the world of sports. Having made their fortunes through various other business practices, their interest in sports comes down to factors like prestige, competition or even just the sheer enjoyment of doing so.
The following list contains the 10 richest sports franchise owners in America for 2013 according to Forbes.
10. Shahid Khan – Net Worth: $3.8 billion
Look at that face. That face proves that money can indeed buy happiness. It can also buy The NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and the English Premier League’s Fulham FC. Shahid Khan is a Pakistani-American billionaire who ranks 122nd on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest people in America and is the 490th richest person in the world. Khan was born on July 18, 1952 in Punjab, Pakistan and moved to the United States at age 16. He attended the University of Illinois and made billions after buying and developing automobile parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate. The 61-year-old is also the richest person in the world of Pakistani origin.
After a deal to buy 60% of the St. Louis Rams fell through in 2010, Khan bought the Jaguars from businessman Wayne Weaver in 2011 for an estimated $760 million. His sports itch continued with the purchase of the Fulham FC in July 2013. The official sale price was never disclosed but it’s assumed to be between £150–200 million ($244-325 million).
9. Daniel Gilbert – Net Worth: $3.9 billion
Daniel Gilbert made his money as founder and chairman of mortgage lending companies Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans inc. His net worth of $3.9 billion ranks him 118th on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans. Born in Michigan on January 17, 1962, Gilbert’s first venture into sports came in 2005 when he purchased the Cleveland Cavaliers for $375 million. He wasted no time dismantling the team’s front office, a move that proved beneficial as the Cavs became competitive in the years that followed.
In 2010, after LeBron James announced that he was leaving Cleveland to head for Miami on a controversial ESPN special, pompously dubbed The Decision, Gilbert made matters worse by publishing an angry letter to fans, criticizing how James made his announcement. Maybe it was his harsh words, calling LeBron’s actions “a cowardly betrayal,” or maybe it was the comic sans font he used… but whatever the reason, NBA commissioner David Stern fined Gilbert $100,000 (equivalent to the price of a Big Mac for you and I) for the inappropriate letter.
Since buying the Cavaliers, Gilbert has purchased and relocated a variety of other sports teams including the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters, the AFL’s Cleveland Gladiators and the NBA D-League’s Canton Charge.
8. Ted Lerner – Net Worth: $4 billion
At 88, Ted Lerner is the oldest billionaire on this list, sitting proud as number 110 on Forbes’ 400 richest Americans. Lerner has been a 90% owner of the NL East’s Washington Nationals since 2006. He made his name in the business world as a real estate developer, opening Lerner Enterprises in 1952 with $250 he borrowed from his wife. Today his company is the market leader in private real estate in Washington, although it remains unconfirmed whether or not he ever returned the $250. The Lerner family is also part of Monumental Sports & Entertainment which owns the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the NBA’s Washington Wizards as well as the Verizon Center where all those teams play.
7. Malcolm Glazer – Net Worth: $4.5 billion
Malcolm Irving Glazer was born on May 25, 1928 in Rochester, New York. The American business tycoon purchased the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995 for just $192 million. Not a bad deal, considering the team is today worth over $1 billion. The Bucs’ fortunes took a turn for the better after Glazer’s acquisition of the team, improving their record and winning the Super Bowl in 2002. Having succeeded in American football, Glazer thought he’d give the British game a try, buying Premier League powerhouse Manchester United in a series of deals between 2003 and 2005. Since then, the team’s value has jumped almost $2 billion and is currently the second most valuable sports franchise in the world behind only Real Madrid. Glazer and his family rank 102nd on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest people in America.
6. Stephen Ross – Net Worth: $4.8 billion
Stephen M. Ross is the 94th richest man in America according to Forbes. Famous for his philanthropic activities, he has donated a total of $313 to the University of Michigan, the largest total in the university’s history.
The 73-year-old started his career as a sports owner in 2008 when he bought a 50% stake in the Miami Dolphins franchise from Wayne Huizenga for $550 million. The next year Ross purchased an additional 45% of the team, totalling 95% ownership for a combined $1.1 billion.
So far Ross has failed to bring any measure of success to the flailing team that hasn’t made a playoff appearance since losing the wildcard to Baltimore in 2008. He did however bring in Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, Venus Williams and Serena Williams as minority owners of the team. As useful as they may be, it doesn’t look like Ross will be able to salsa or serve his way out of eventually moving the struggling Dolphins from their crumbling home stadium. Ironically, he came up with $200 million to donate to U of M this year, but is asking the public to finance the $350 million in critical renovations to the Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium. Not surprisingly, the team has gained no value since he purchased them and their future at the moment doesn’t look particularly sunny.
5. Stanley Kroenke – Net Worth: $5.3 billion
Enos Stanley Kroenke is a true sports mogul, most notable for recently becoming the primary owner of the English Premier League team, Arsenal FC. The American billionaire was born on July 29, 1947, in Missouri, and at 66 years old he ranks 84th of the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.
Through Kroenke Sports Enterprises, Kroenke owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, and the NFL’s St. Louis Rams among several other less valuable teams from other leagues.
Kroenke’s wife, Ann Walton Kroenke, is the daughter of none other than Wal-Mart co-founder Bud Walton. In 1995 she inherited a stake of her father’s company that is currently worth over $6 billion.
4. Charles Johnson – Net Worth: $5.6 billion
Charles Bartlett Johnson was born on January 6, 1933 in New Jersey. A former army lieutenant, Johnson serves as chairman for Franklin Resources, a mutual fund company his father started in 1947. The 80-year-old American businessman is also the primary owner of the MLB’s San Francisco Giants, but he doesn’t involve himself much in the team’s affairs, leaving that up to Chief Executive Officer, Larry Baer.
Johnson has owned the Giants since 1993 but it wasn’t until recently that they started having great success. San Fran brought home two World Series trophies in three years, winning the Big Game in 2010 and 2012. The team has done fans a service by smartly investing in its stadium, creating a better viewing experience for spectators, and will be expanding its park in 2015. Having spent $100 million on the club in 1993, Johnson’s investment has increase sevenfold. Forbes now values the team at $786 million and ranks Johnson 74th on their list of the richest people in America.
3. Micky Arison – Net Worth: $5.9 billion
Micky Arison has been the owner of the Miami Heat since 1995. He purchased the team for a scant $32 million almost two decades ago, an investment that has paid dividends with the team being currently valued at $625 million after winning the NBA Championship in 2006, 2012 and 2013.
Arison was born on June 29, 1949 in Israel, and at 64 now resides in Bal Harbour, Florida. His father Ted Arison co-founded the Carnival Corporation, the largest and oldest established cruise ship operator in the world; its roots going back to the 19th century with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Arison was replaced as CEO by Arnold W. Donald in June, 2013 but remains Chairman of the board. The company itself has a market cap of $28.45 billion and Arison’s personal net worth is listed at $5.9 billion. He also ranks at number 70 on Forbes’ 400 richest people in America.
2. Richard DeVos – Net Worth: $6.8 billion
This 87-year-old American of Dutch ethnicity is worth over $6.8 billion and ranks number 60 on the Forbes’ 400 richest people in America. Richard DeVos began his journey into the sports world with a failed attempt to start up and MLB expansion team in Orlando. He he went on to buy the NBA’s Orlando Magic in 1991 for $85 million only two years after the young team was created.
The DeVos family also owned three hockey franchises from the now defunct International Hockey League. The Orlando Solar Bears and Kansas City Blades both folded with the league in 2001. The Grand Rapids Griffins on the other hand were one of six IHL teams to successfully join the AHL. In 2011 DeVos revived the Solar Bears franchise as part of the ECHL.
DeVos is also the co-founder of Amway, a successful on multi-level marketing company that is the 28th largest private corporation in America with a 2013 revenue of $11.3 billion according to Forbes.
1. Paul Allen – Net Worth: $15.8 billion
Now, this is a rich dude. Paul Gardner Allen is best-known as co-founder of Microsoft along with some guy named Bill Gates. His list of philanthropic and business ventures goes on and on, all taken care of by Vulcan Inc. of which he is founder and chairman.
Sports fans know the 60-year-old better as the owner of both the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. Allen bought the Portland franchise from California real estate developer Larry Weinberg for $70 million in 1988. Nine years later, he saved the Seahawks from relocation, purchasing the team in a risky move that would prove very profitable in the long run with the team currently worth over $1 billion. Allen is also part owner of the Seattle Sounders FC of the MLS
As the 53rd richest person in the world, and the 26th richest American on Forbes’ top 400 list, it’s safe to say that Allen isn’t into sports for the money. If tomorrow all his teams were to become miserable failures, he would still be able to pay the bills. But like other similarly fortunate men on this list, his sporting endeavours have been a chance to get involved with an industry that is not only profitable, but holds tremendous symbolic meaning for fans; something that is truly priceless.
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