The 10 Worst Team Owners in Sports

Being a fan is sometimes a frustrating experience. We have no control over our team’s destiny. We’re idealistic, hopeful and eager bystanders to the play on the field. Our favorite players get traded and we can do nothing about it. Our team hires a bad manager or coach, or fires one of “our guys” and we sit helplessly and watch. Behind all of these decisions is the team owner. He or she controls the purse strings and hires and fires the people who make the decisions. Some owners are better than others and it's no coincidence that some teams experience success at a higher rate than others because of them. Here are the ten worst owners the sports world has ever seen.

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10 Charles Wang – New York Islanders

Wang purchased Islanders in 2004, though he was part of an ownership group since 2000. Wang has shown a willingness to spend money, which is often a good thing. Unfortunately, his decisions have been nothing short of terrible. He hired a general manager, then fired him 40 days later and replaced him with Garth Snow, his once third-string goaltender. He also signed Rick Dipietro to an absolutely crazy 15-year contract worth over $67 million. His plans to upgrade the Islanders' arena have run into red-tape and his franchise is one of the few sports teams to actually be devalued in recent years. In fact, Wang is on the record of saying that he wouldn’t have purchased the Islanders if he could go back and change his decision.

9 The Maloof Family – Sacramento Kings

Luckily this situation has been resolved and the Kings appear to be in far better hands these days, but it’s going to take years to undo the damage the Maloofs did to the team. The Maloof family made a series of terrible casino deals and basically lost their fortune. To compensate, they stripped the Kings down to the barest of operating costs. They tried unsuccessfully to move the team and made a series of bad hiring decisions along the way.

8 Ford Family – Detroit Lions

With apologies to the late William Clay Ford, he was a terrible owner. Out of loyalty or otherwise, Ford allowed Matt Millen, one of the worst general managers in sports, to reign unchecked for eight years. Millen led the Lions to the worst record ever recorded by a football team during an eight-year span. He routinely missed on high draft picks year after year, and he admitted the team record was “beyond awful” during his tenure. Since taking control of the team in 1964 the Lions have gone an unimpressive 309-444-13. Their playoff history is terrible, they’ve had so many bad coaches over the years, and they even went winless over a whole season.

7 Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment – Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis, left, and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Tom Anselmi

MLSE has owned the Maple Leafs since 1991. While a single owner might be bad, a corporation owning a sports team might be worse. The MLSE has so many side-projects and other commitments that they don’t devote nearly enough time and energy of any single one of their sports teams. They own the Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC, the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League and the Air Canada Center. The Leafs are the most valuable franchise in the NHL – yet they have only made 10 playoff appearances since 1991 and haven’t come close to winning a cup. One of the more storied franchises in hockey has been pushed aside by a company that seems more inclined to making money with a diverse portfolio of sports teams.

6 Dan Snyder – Washington Redskins

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports Images

5 James Dolan – New York Knicks

William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports Images

We can say this about Dolan, he’s not afraid to spend some money. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always equate to success. Dolan has made some truly awful roster and coaching decisions – including keeping Isaiah Thomas as general manager despite a terrible run and an awful sexual harassment scandal. The Knicks are routinely at the top of the league in terms of payroll and can’t seem to achieve any sort of playoff success. They routinely acquire old and expensive players past their prime. And if that sounds familiar it’s because the same holds true of the New York Rangers – another team Dolan owns. The Knicks and Rangers have made the playoffs a handful of times each, but neither has come close to winning a league title in years.

4 Mike Brown – Cincinnati Bengals

Mike Brown took over control of the Bengals following the death of his father, Paul Brown, in 1991. Since then, Mike Brown has gone on to become one of the most hated owners in sports. Not only has the Bengals' record been rather terrible, but Brown’s desire to save money has been something of an issue. He refuses to spend money on things like scouts and free agent players. Oh, he also doesn’t want to hire a general manager to run his operation and has served in that role for numerous years. In 2009 Yahoo ranked him as the second worst owner in the NFL. Bengals fans have revolted over the years by forming boycotts, paying for billboards to voice their displeasure and even starting an anti-Mike Brown web site.

3 Al Davis – Oakland Raiders

The late Al Davis won three titles after purchasing the Raiders in 1972, making him something of an anomaly on this list. Yet, one must ask the question, how bad does an owner have to be to negate the success of three titles and 15 playoff appearances? His team has had only five winning seasons since 1982. But no owner exerts more control on his team than Davis. Davis has hired some truly awful coaches, including Bill Callahan, a coach so bad that his own players accused him of trying to get himself fired. His draft pick selections were been awful, to say the least. During his tenure as Raiders owner, Davis  proved to be out of touch, a control freak, and delusional about the prospects of his team’s future.

2 Jeffrey Loria – Miami Marlins

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports Images

There’s really no one who has done more damage to baseball as an owner than Jeffrey Loria. He murdered baseball in Montreal, and while some argument could be made that such a move was necessary and bound to happen regardless of his involvement, there’s been plenty of evidence that suggest the situation could have been resolved. His reward for this achievement was his approval to purchase the Florida Marlins. Since then, Loria has purged the roster, held the city for ransom for a new stadium and after getting that, refused to spend any of his newfound income on roster improvements. Worse, as if to rub everyone else’s faces in it, Loria won a title with the Marlins before purging his roster, so he has that going for him.

1 Donald Sterling – Los Angeles Clippers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Images

Sterling purchased the Clippers at a time when the NBA was in desperate need of owners with money. He’s always run his team like a business, keeping costs down and refusing to spend big on his own players or in free agency. His team has been terrible during his tenure and until recent years haven’t been relevant in the post-season. All that said, it’s every other shameful act that makes him not only the worst owner in sports but just a terrible human being. Sterling was sued for racial discrimination and sexual harassment, several times. He’s withstood federal charges for some of these crimes and settled out of court to avoid a larger settlement. Elgin Baylor, his own former general manager, filed a racial and age discrimination suit against Sterling after he was fired. To top it all off, Sterling was reportedly recorded by a female companion saying racist comments which led to severe and ongoing media backlash and resulted in a lifetime suspension from the NBA. You stay classy, Donald Sterling.

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