Have you ever dreamed of being able to own a professional sports team in the United States of America? You had better do well in previous business endeavors for decades ahead of time. Each of the 20 richest sports team owners in America for 2015 has, according to the updated Forbes numbers, a net worth of at least $3.3 billion. Steve Ballmer, once again listed by Forbes as the richest sports team owner for America, reportedly bid around $2 billion in order to acquire National Basketball Association franchise the Los Angeles Clippers. Ballmer was considered to be a hero of the Clippers, as he took control of the team from a man who truly had no business owning an NBA team.
The National Football League is far and away the top sports league in America, and that is represented throughout the list of the country’s richest sports team owners. Some familiar names, such as Bob Kraft, Robert McNair, and, of course, Jerry Jones, are featured in the list. None of those owners have a net worth equal to that held by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who is involved with multiple sports franchises. One of his teams would likely be a two-time reigning and defending champion had the coach who is employed by Allen made a different decision at a crucial point of a title game.
Of all of the people who are among the top 20 richest sports team owners in America for 2015, none may be more controversial than Stanley Kroenke as of October 2015. Kroenke, who has multiple teams in his portfolio, could be just a few months away from relocating one of those franchises from its current city. The NFL has (allegedly) been searching for at least one team to build in or move to Los Angeles, and Kroenke could have the solution to the issue in his St. Louis Rams. Kroenke may, however, find that moving the Rams is going to be more difficult than he first thought.
T19. Robert McNair – Net Worth: $3.3 Billion
How much or how little Robert McNair is involved with the selection of players for his Houston Texans has been debated in football circles. What cannot be questioned is that McNair has one of pro football’s top superstars playing for his franchise. Defensive end J.J. Watt is an exciting athlete who may be the top defensive player in the NFL. Watt has also become an advertising gem, one that has been used in commercials by the NFL, Verizon and other companies. McNair wisely provided Watt with a contract that should keep the pass-rusher in Houston throughout the majority of the player’s prime.
T19. Tom Gores – Net Worth: $ 3.3 Billion
It was back in 1995 when Tom Gores founded Platinum Equity. That, along with other wise decisions that he has made over the years, allowed him to take control of NBA team the Detroit Pistons. Gores reportedly paid around $325 million for the Pistons back in 2011, and the known sports aficionado has to be at least somewhat disappointed in the current state of his team. While the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers are, on paper, all in positions to compete for a conference championship, the Pistons are just another NBA that will win some games, lose some games and then not be there at the end of the postseason.
18. Joan Tisch – Net Worth: $3.4 Billion
The late Bob Tisch owned 50 percent of the New York Giants until his passing in 2005, and his widow Joan is now listed as being in control of the net worth from their shared fortune. Steve, son of Bob and Joan, is now the public head of the family’s shared ownership of the NFL franchise that has been in existence for over 90 years. The Giants may not always compete for a Super Bowl championship, but the club is respected for not having the turnover rates that are found among other teams in the league. Big Blue is a model franchise in many ways.
17. Dan Gilbert – Net Worth: $3.8 Billion
Say whatever you will about the non-sports moves and decisions that Dan Gilbert has made in his other business endeavors. The man deserves credit for, at the very least, doing what he thinks is best for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Remember, everybody, that LeBron James does not move on from the Miami Heat and South Beach to return to the Cavs if Gilbert does not extend a peace offering. It is Gilbert who also happens to be paying James millions upon millions of dollars every NBA season. Of any of the owners in the city, it is Gilbert who is closest to bringing a pro sports championship to Cleveland.
T15. Jeremy Jacobs – Net Worth: $4 Billion
Along with being the chairman of Delaware North, which claims to be “one of the world’s leading hospitality and food service companies,” Jeremy Jacobs is the owner of the Boston Bruins. Jacobs has owned the Bruins for over three decades, and his National Hockey League side has been a consistent championship contender in recent memory. The Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup in celebration in the spring of 2011. Jacobs attempted to ease tensions with fans in January of 2013 when he apologized for the work stoppage that had shortened the 2012-13 season. Winning fixes everything among fans, Mr. Jacobs.
T15. Terry Pegula – Net Worth: $4 Billion
The possibility existed just a couple of years ago that the Buffalo Bills were going to be relocated. Toronto was reportedly interested in having a full-time NFL team to call its own. There was also those rumors about Los Angeles being a potential home for a relocating franchise. Enter Terry Pegula, the owner of the Buffalo Sabres who had his reasons for wanting to keep the Bills in western New York. That is what Pegula achieved in buying the Bills, and his team may be a playoff contender under new head coach Rex Ryan. Well done, Mr. Pegula, for keeping the Bills where the team belongs.
14. Charles Dolan – Net Worth: $4.7 Billion
None of the top 20 richest sports team owners in America for 2015 may be less popular among local fans than Charles Dolan. Both the New York Knicks and New York Rangers are under the control of the Dolan family, and there exist many supporters of those teams who would like to see somebody else purchase those clubs. The Knicks, in particular, have been nothing shy of an embarrassment in recent seasons. Along with bringing Phil Jackson to New York to serve some purpose with the Knicks, the club also overspent to keep Carmelo Anthony at Madison Square Garden. Best of luck with all of that, Knicks.
13. Robert Kraft – Net Worth: $4.8 Billion
Behold the man who may very well be the most powerful single person in all of the NFL. The owner of the New England Patriots and New England quarterback Tom Brady took it to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over the “Deflate-Gate” matter, and it is Kraft and Brady who emerged from that battle standing as the victors. Appeals and conversations about what may or may not have happened before and during the 2015 AFC Championship Game are set to continue through the season, but it is difficult to imagine, at this point, that either Kraft or Brady will lose anything significant when all is said and done.
12. Jerry Jones – Net Worth: $5 Billion
None of the richest sports team owners in America stand out as does Jerry Jones. You may, as a fan, love him or hate him, but even those who cannot stand the Dallas Cowboys would have to admit that there would be times when it would be fun to have Jones as the owner of your favorite NFL team. Jones often makes decisions with his heart ahead of his head. Claims that he had to be physically held back from selecting Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft make for a funny story, even if they are not entirely accurate. A club that is called “America’s Team” could not have a better owner than Jones.
11. Charles Johnson – Net Worth: $5.3 Billion
No, this is not the Charles Johnson who plays wide receiver in the NFL. This Charles Johnson is a mutual fund billionaire who owns Major League Baseball club the San Francisco Giants. Johnson may be the man behind the money for the Giants, but it is Larry Baer who serves as the president and CEO of the team. The Giants have been as close to a dynasty as one will see in MLB these days, winning a World Series championship every other season over a span of six years. San Francisco will be on the outside looking in during the 2015 postseason. Watch out for the Giants in 2016.
10. Michael & Marian Ilitch – Net Worth: $5.4 Billion
Are you a fan of being able to grab a “HOT-N-READY” pizza without being forced to wait for your pie? You can thank Michael Ilitch. Ilitch is the founder and owner of Little Caesars Pizza, and the successes of the brand have allowed Ilitch to branch out to other business endeavors. Both Michael and Marian Ilitch are listed as the owners of the Detroit Tigers of MLB and NHL franchise the Detroit Red Wings. Both Detroit franchises have benefited from the Ilitch family, as the family has not been shy about pumping money into those teams to make them championship contenders.
9. Ted Lerner – Net Worth: $5.5 Billion
Ted Lerner is probably going to have some questions for those running his professional baseball club sooner than later. The Washington Nationals, owned by Lerner, experienced a meltdown during the 2015 MLB season, and the club fell apart as the New York Mets climbed to the top of the National League East standings. It is the Mets and not the Nationals that won the division and that will be involved in postseason baseball, and odds are that the Lerner family is going to expect better from the Nationals moving forward. Changes could be coming and soon to the front office of the club.
T7. Shahid Kahn – Net Worth: $5.6 Billion
Shahid Kahn could be one of the more interesting individuals to follow among the richest sports team owners in America for 2015. Along with owning English soccer club Fulham FC, Kahn is also the owner of NFL franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars. The NFL has deals to have multiple games played in London every season for the foreseeable future, and the club has an agreement with Tottenham Hotspur that will result in a new soccer/football stadium being built in north London. Does the NFL want a full-time team in London? Is Kahn the man to make that dream a reality? Stay tuned.
T7. Richard DeVos – Net Worth: $5.6 Billion
The co-founder of Amway purchased NBA franchise the Orlando Magic for a reported fee of $85 million back in 1991. Richard DeVos may receive over $1 billion for the club if he were to put it on the market today. That is not too shabby of a return on the initial investment. The Magic and Orlando city officials came together on an agreement that led to taxes being used to pay for a new arena, something that was not popular among all who live in the area. The next step for the Orlando Magic is to become a NBA team that is able to hang with opponents such as the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers in a playoff series.
6. Stephen Ross – Net Worth: $6.7 Billion
Ryan Yousefi of the Miami New Times had high praise for the owner of the Miami Dolphins in a piece that was published in September of 2015:
It’s been more than a half-decade since Stephen Ross purchased the Miami Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga, and it seems as if slowly but steadily, Ross has finally turned around the franchise. Heading into the 2015 season, everything feels very new-car-smell around the team, and it all comes directly from Ross’ hard work.
Looking like a strong team on paper is one thing. Being able to finish in the standings above the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills may prove to be an impossible task for the 2015 Dolphins.
5. Stanley Kroenke – Net Worth: $7.6 Billion
The St. Louis Rams, Arsenal FC, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids and Denver Nuggets are all under the control of the Kroenke family. It has long been rumored that Stanley Kroenke could either sell the Rams to an ownership group that is located in Los Angeles, or that he could move the team himself out west. Not so fast, Mr. Kroenke. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported on September 27, 2015 that some owners around the NFL do not wish to see the Rams relocate to Los Angeles. At least 24 owners, as explained by Florio, would have to approve that move.
4. Micky Arison – Net Worth: $7.7 Billion
When you are one of the richest team owners in America, you are probably not used to being rejected by athletes. That is what happened to Miami Heat owner Micky Arison in the summer of 2014, however, when LeBron James left the Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Arison had a classy response when news first broke that James would once again be residing in northeast Ohio. It was alleged in January of this year, though, that Arison used Twitter to take a couple of shots at the talented player who helped the Heat win a pair of NBA Championships.
3. Philip Anschutz – Net Worth: $10.9 Billion
Nobody can have any doubts about how dedicated Philip Anschutz has been to spending money on sports projects. Anschutz was one of the founders of North American top-flight soccer league Major League Soccer, and MLS would likely not exist as it does today without his efforts. Anschutz owns stakes in multiple professional sports teams, including the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL, NBA franchise the Los Lakers and MLS team LA Galaxy. The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) is a true sports powerhouse, one that controls different entities and also venues that are located all around the world. AEG is also heavily involved in the music and entertainment industries.
2. Paul Allen – Net Worth: $17.8 Billion
The Microsoft co-founder has the wealth needed to own multiple professional sports teams. Paul Allen is the owner of the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA and NFL franchise the Seattle Seahawks. Allen is also a part owner of MLS club the Seattle Sounders. It is the Seahawks that have been the most successful of those three teams as of late. Seattle won the Super Bowl in February of 2014, and the Seahawks were a yard away from potentially winning a second straight championship the following February. We will never know what could have been had the Seahawks tried to run the football on that one fateful play.
1. Steve Ballmer – Net Worth: $21.6 Billion
The scandal involving then-owner of NBA team the Los Angeles Clippers Donald Sterling opened up an opportunity for former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to buy that franchise. That is what happened in 2014, and Ballmer has served as the owner of the Clippers since August of that year. With the Forbes lists being released each September, Ballmer is the richest sports team owner in America for the second straight year. The Clippers shall reign as the current kings of LA basketball until the Lakers rebuild the team’s roster, and thus one should expect to see Balmer keep his spot atop of these lists for years to come.