The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Top 10 Sports Franchise Purchases of All Time

Cody SnellContributor IMarch 31, 2012

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Top 10 Sports Franchise Purchases of All Time

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    What do 40 Gulf Stream jets, a lifetime supply of Donald Trump's hair products and the Los Angeles Dodgers have in common?

    They all cost $2 billion.  

    On Tuesday, a group called Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC ponied up just over two billion greenbacks to lay claim to the Dodger franchise after a nasty divorce between the previous owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, forced the team onto the market. 

    The $2.15 billion purchase, led by Laker legend Magic Johnson and über film producer Peter Gruber, not only set the record for the most expensive acquisition of a sports franchise, it obliterated it. 

    Previously, the record amount paid for a sports team was the 2005 procurement of Manchester United for $1.47 billion. Add a half billion dollars more to that figure, and you come up with what a top-three market baseball team goes for these days. 

    For a perspective on the astronomical nature of the Dodgers deal, let's take a look at the top 10 most expensive sports franchise purchases of all-time. 

No. 10: Houston Astros for $610 Million

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    They say everything's bigger in Texas, and that includes the pocket book of Houston businessman Jim Crane. Crane was set to buy the Astros in 2008, but he backed out of the deal at the 11th hour in an attempt to bid on the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers.

    Once Crane failed in landing either of those two teams, he decided the Astros would have to do and put down a cool $610 million on the ball club in November of last year.

    The approval of Crane as an MLB owner was not without controversy. In 2000, Crane was investigated by the feds for racial and sex discrimination issues at his company, Eagle Global Logistics, but he later settled out of court and has never admitted to the accusations.

    But hey, Bud Selig must have figured that only so many people have $610 million lying around and put his stamp of approval on the 10th most expensive sports team purchase of all-time.

No. 9: New York Jets for $635 Million

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    Back when Tim Tebow was still in Bible School, Woody Johnson bought the Jets in 2000 for $635 million.

    The philanthropist and businessman, of Johnson & Johnson fame, inherited a team steeped in mediocrity when he took over the Jets. At the time, analysts were baffled at the price Johnson paid for a team that had finished 1-15 just four years earlier. According to the New York Times, the team's actual value was more around $250 million.

    The price of the team was inflated largely due to a bidding war between Johnson and New York sports overlords James and Charles Dolan, whose group also owns the Rangers and Knicks. In a battle of the billionaires, Dolan blinked first, and it's a sure bet Woody's glad he did.

    In the 12 years since Johnson bought the team, the Jets have been to the playoffs six times, including back-to-back AFC Conference Championship games in 2009 and 2010.

    The Jets' new winning ways, along with a recent dose of Tebow Time, have Johnson laughing in the face of the prognosticators who said he overpaid for his little hobby.

    Forbes now puts the value of the team at $1.14 billion. 

No. 8: Chicago Cubs for $700 Million

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    They may look like the Brady Bunch, but the Ricketts family became some of the most powerful individuals in the world of sports with their $700 million purchase of the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

    As self-described lifelong Cubs fans, the Ricketts are just the latest Chicagoans in line to try and end the 104 year title drought looming over the North Side. 

    All indications point to a family that badly wants to turn things around, and by bringing in wunderkind president Theo Epstein, the Cubs may be on the right track towards prominence again.

    But if $700 million can't reverse the Curse of the Billy Goat, it may be another 104 years before Wrigley Field sees a World Series champion again.

No. 7: Houston Texans for $700 Million

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    NFL-less cities only need to find an eccentric billionaire with $700 million lying around to lure in a professional football team.

    When Bob McNair brought football back to Houston in 2002, few had high expectations for the Texans—just the fourth expansion team in the last 36 years. 

    But over the years, McNair has slowly turned the Texans into a competitive, first-rate football club that finally made their first playoff appearance last year.

    Thanks to some shrewd personnel moves and the foresight to sell his company to Enron just before it collapsed, it appears that McNair and his deep pockets will be with the Texans for the long haul.

No. 6: St. Louis Rams for $750 Million

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    For all you wannabe sports owners out there, there are two ways to achieve your goal: buy up all the Mega Millions lottery tickets or marry a Walton. 

    Stanley Kroenke chose the latter. Kroenke, who is married to Wal-Mart heiress Anne Walton Kroenke, bought the St. Louis Rams in 2010 for $750 million.

    Once the Greatest Show on Turf, the Rams have recently fallen on some tough times, ending last season with a 2-14 record.

    This may explain why Kroenke has turned to other endeavors to distract him from his team's futility, like bidding on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unfortunately, Kroenke could not match the $2 billion that Magic Johnson and Co. put up and was sent home without a baseball team to add to his collection. 

    Don't shed too many tears for the man, though. He can always take a short trip across the pond and watch his other football team, Arsenal F.C.

No. 5: Washington Redskins for $750 Million

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    Dan Snyder could have either become the world's best Bill Gates impersonator or one of the most polarizing owners in all of sports. Guess which career path he chose?

    Snyder, who bought the Washington Redskins for $750 million in 1999, has had a somewhat strained relationship with the fans, to say the least.

    Since Snyder has taken over the team, the Redskins have gone 91-117 and have fired more employees than Mitt Romney's dad at a Michigan car factory. Washington has gone through seven head coaches during Snyder's tenure and suffered a public relations fiasco after Snyder decided to sue fans that could not pay their season ticket fees during the 2008-2009 recession. 

    No doubt Snyder eagerly anticipates Robert Griffin III's arrival in Washington to return a dysfunctional franchise back to its glory days.

No. 4: Jacksonville Jaguars for $770 Million

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    The Ron Jeremy doppelganger to the left is Shahid Khan, the new owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    The first Pakistani-American owner of a U.S. sports franchise, Khan got his start working at an auto parts manufacturer called Flex-N-Gate and eventually went on to buy the company and turn it into a $3 billion a year business.

    Khan bought the Jags back in January for an eyebrow-raising $770 million and continued the trend of billionaire owners entering the NFL. With Khan's purchase, there are now more billionaire owners in the NFL than the NBA and MLB combined.

    Even for a man worth $2.5 billion, $770 million is a quite a chunk of change to give up for a team with two playoff appearances in the last 12 years. 

    However, Khan got a bargain compared to the third-highest price paid for a sports franchise.

No. 3: Miami Dolphins for $1.1 Billion

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    Stephen M. Ross clearly is a believer in Justin Timberlake's mantra in The Social Network: "A million dollars isn't cool You know what's cool? A billion dollars."

    After buying a majority share of the Miami Dolphins in 2009 for $1.1 billion, Ross is now cooler than the Fonz

    Ross, who made his fortune in real estate, inherited one of the most entertaining teams in the league with its widespread use of the Wildcat formation, but also one of the most mediocre. With just one playoff appearance in the last 10 years, it's clear the Dolphins are still a work in progress.

    Perhaps Ross believes a little star power can turn this struggling franchise around. Since buying the team, he's brought in Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony and the Williams sisters as minority owners.

No. 2: Manchester United for $1.47 Billion

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    You may be wondering why a man who owns the world's most famous soccer team, Manchester United, is wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers hat.

    He owns them too.

    Malcolm Glazer, who bought Manchester United in 2005 for $1.47 billion, is a man with many accolades. He's already won a Super Bowl, three Premier League titles and a Champions League Cup. His accomplishments, however, have not helped his popularity with the Man U fanbase.

    Ticket prices for Manchester United games have gone up by over 40 percent since Glazer took over the team, and in 2010, fans took to the streets in protest of Glazer and his ownership methods.

    Glazer should know that even a billion dollars can't save you from a mob of British football fanatics.

No. 1: Los Angeles Dodgers for $2.15 Billion

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    For the amount of money that Magic Johnson and his group spent on acquiring the Dodgers, they could have bought both Manchester United and the Houston Astros.

    It has yet to be seen whether the astronomical $2.15 billion sum is a wise investment move. That number alone, though, indicates how valuable big-market sports teams have become. Between the ticket revenue, television deals, merchandise, parking fees and concessions, today's sports franchises rake in the dough through every method imaginable.

    But be careful what you wish for, Guggenheim Group, because in the words of Notorious B.I.G., "mo' money, mo' problems."

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