15 Smartest Owners in Professional Sports
Fans have called their favorite team’s owner many words, but smart usually isn’t one of them. Let’s be honest, if it weren’t for these intelligent businesspeople, we wouldn’t have the sports we love today.
Sports team owners, traditionally, have succeeded in other businesses before purchasing a sports franchise in an attempt to leverage their experience to winning a championship and increasing the value of the team.
Either using marketing tactics, drafting good talent or great organziational management, these 15 owners have each succeeded in their own way to improve the ball clubs they own.
The Steinbrenner Family
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The Steinbrenner family has built one of the most recognizable brands anywhere around the world.
Forbes valued the Yankees at $1.8 billion on March 2012, before Magic Johnson and his partners purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers for over $2 billion.
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After achieving success in the advertising business, long time baseball fan Arturo Moreno tried his hand at ownership.
In 2003, Moreno purchased the Angels from Walt Disney Company for $180 million. Moreno used his experience in marketing to rebrand the team as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and negotiated a TV deal with Fox Sports.
As of March 2012, Forbes valued the Angels at $656 million.
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Jerry Jones owns the most valuable football team in America. Jones experienced success as an entrepreneur after starting Jones Oil and Land Leased, his private oil business.
Since Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 for $140 million, the team has won three Super Bowls.
As of 2012, Forbes values the team at $2.1 billion—thanks to his business savvy and marketing talent.
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Under the ownership of Robert Kraft the Patriots have reached five Super Bowls and won three.
The team is the second most valued team in the league by Forbes at $1.6 billion. According to their Forbes profile, 99% of fans renew their tickets each season.
Kraft used his experience as a real estate developer to build the Patriots a new home field in 2002—Gillette Stadium.
John W. Henry
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John W. Henry was a successful businessman as a futures and foreign exchange trader before he and Thomas Werner purchased the Boston Red Sox for $380 million.
Forbes valued the Red Sox at $912 million (before the Magic Johnson purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers for over $2 billion).
John Mara and Steve Tisch
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John Mara inherited the New York Football Giants after his father’s death. After joining the team as President and CEO, the Giants have won two Super Bowl championships.
Forbes values the Giants at $1.4 billion, fourth highest in the league.
Eddie DeBartolo Jr.'s nephew, Jed York, now runs the San Francisco 49ers.
The University of Notre Dame alum has turned around the 49ers losing seasons after the hire of Jim Harbough, who recently guided the team to Super Bowl XLVII.
York has plans to build the 49ers a new stadium that should increase the team’s value. He has also hired Gideon Yu, former Facebook CFO, to become the team’s president.
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Robert McNair brought back football to Houston after the Oilers left and become the Tennessee Titans.
Since entering the league as an expansion team in 2002, the Texans have drafted six Pro Bowlers in 12 seasons and have won the the NFC South twice.
McNair bought the team for $700 million and is now worth $1.2 billion, according to Forbes.
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Probably the most beloved and hated man in sports entertainment, Vince McMahon has done it all for the sport of wrestling.
Through different branding strategies and the success of live events like WrestleMania, McMahon built one of the most popular sports during the 1980s-2000s.
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Mikhail Prokhorov successfully moved the newly re-branded Nets to Brooklyn from New Jersey.
With help from entrepreneur Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Prokhorov purchased 80% of the team and 45% of its new arena, the Barclays Center.
The Nets currently own a winning record and are battling for playoff seeding for the first time since 2006.
The Glazer Family
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After initially buying out the shareholders of Manchester United with debt, Malcolm Glazer and his family successfully offered an IPO valuing the club at $2.3 billion, making it the most valuable football club in the world.
The team continues to experience success on the pitch and is on their way to winning to the English Premier League this season.
Real Madrid Members
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Seems like everything Magic Johnson touches turns to gold. The NBA Hall of Famer has been successful on and off the court.
As a Laker, he earned five NBA championships and three NBA Finals MVP trophies. Off the court, Johnson was a part owner of the Lakers and runs Magic Johnson Enterprise—consisting of movie theaters, a promotional company and a movie studio valued at $550 million.
Recently, Johnson was part of an ownership group who purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers for over $2 billion.
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Mario Lemieux successfully turned around the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise from bankruptcy and is now valued at $288 million by Forbes.
With smart management and a new stadium deal, Lemieux was able to keep the franchise in Pittsburgh, rejuvenate the fan base and win the Stanley Cup in 2008-09.